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The Vast Gamble On Wind Power

August 15, 2016

By Paul Homewood

 

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/08/14/britains-vast-national-gamble-on-wind-power-may-yet-pay-off/ 

 

AEP follows up last week’s piece on energy storage with another attempt to flog the dead horse known as offshore wind:

 

Wind power has few friends on the political Right. No other industry elicits such protest from the conservative press, Tory backbenchers, and free market economists.

The vehemence is odd since wind generates home-made energy and could be considered a ‘patriotic choice’. It dates back to the 1990s and early 2000s when the national wind venture seemed a bottomless pit for taxpayer subsidies.

The UK is already world leader in offshore wind. The strategic choice now is whether to go for broke… My own view is that the gamble is worth taking

Pre-modern turbines captured trivial amounts of energy. The electrical control systems and gearboxes broke down. Repair costs were prohibitive.

Yet as so often with infant industries, early mishaps tell us little. Costs are coming down faster than almost anybody thought possible. As the technology comes of age – akin to gains in US shale fracking  – the calculus is starting to vindicate Britain’s vast investment in wind power.

The UK is already world leader in offshore wind. The strategic choice now is whether to go for broke, tripling offshore capacity to 15 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.  The decision is doubly-hard because there is no point dabbling in offshore wind.  Scale is the crucial factor in slashing costs, so either we do it with conviction or we do not do it all. My own view is that the gamble is worth taking.

Shallow British waters to offer optimal sites of 40m depth. The oil and gas industry knows how to operate offshore. Atkins has switched its North Sea skills seamlessly to building substations for wind. JDR in Hartlepool sells submarine cables across the world. Wind power is a natural fit.

We live in a world that has just signed the COP21 climate deal in Paris. That implies a steadily rising penalty on carbon emissions. It also implies that those dragging their feet on renewables will ultimately be punished, as the Chinese have grasped.

As I write this August series on the UK’s energy woes, some readers have written suggesting that we exploit Brexit to walk away from our climate pledges and opt for the cheapest forms of fossil power. I rule this out entirely. Nothing would be more disastrous for the diplomatic credibility of this country in the febrile post-Brexit mood than to resile from core global commitments. Nor is it necessary.

The vast new turbines are five times taller than their primitive 20th Century ancestors, reaching 720 feet and generating seven or eight megawatts (MW) each. Most no longer have gear boxes. Drones are replacing inspectors dangling on ropes.………….

 

The biggest offshore companies have together vowed to cut costs to €80 per MWh – or £69 – by 2025. If so, the strike prices may start to match the wholesale price of electricity in the UK market. They may even come below the market price, in which case they will pay money back to society under Britain’s ‘contract for difference’ system.

The Government’s next three offshore auctions will see a staggered fall in strike prices to a maximum of £85 per MWh by 2020, and they will arguably keep falling step by step thereafter until market forces prevail.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/08/14/britains-vast-national-gamble-on-wind-power-may-yet-pay-off/

 

He rambles on about various improvements to wind power technology. But the bottom line, of course, is cost and intermittency.

Despite his claims about costs falling to £69/MWh, the reality is utterly different. At the most recent CfD auction, conducted last year, offshore wind farms were awarded contacts between £120.49 and £158.61/MWh (at current prices).

We await what the results will be from the next round. But it is worth pointing out that the Committee on Climate Change, in their calculations for the recent Fifth Carbon Budget, are assuming the strike price for offshore wind power will still be as high as £94.69/MWh for new capacity added in 2030. (Again, this is at current prices). Their estimate for 2020 is £105.82. (More on this later!)

With market prices still below £50/MWH, this is a huge subsidy, which will have to be met by consumers. 

It is ironic that he wants to ring the death knell for Hinkley Point, because it is too expensive at £92.50.  

 

He then goes on to dismiss concerns about intermittency:

Intermittency remains a curse but claims that anticyclones can halt the offshore wind industry for weeks at a time are a dinner party myth. "Calm conditions persisting for one day are extremely rare. When they do occur, they cover a small fraction of the UK, and there is no evidence to suggest that they persist for long periods of time," says Graham Sinden from Oxford University.

Regardless, sufficient back up capacity has to be set aside to cover for this, as even the CCC admit. They estimate this will add £10/MWh to the headline price of wind power.

 

Before AEP gets too excited, maybe he should look at what the National Grid are projecting for future energy scenarios. This is the one for Gone Green, the most ambitious option:

 

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https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/future-energy-strategies/

 

Offshore will so wildly successful that its output will actually decline in the 2030s, dropping back to 70 TWh by 2040, only 15% of total generation.

 

The proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating. When offshore wind operators can compete on a level playing field with other suppliers, with no subsidies or guarantees, then good luck to them.

AEP brags that the UK is the world leader in offshore wind. This is hardly surprising, as no other countries seem to be potty enough to throw billions down the drain in subsidising it.

In a way, AEP’s headline says it all. What on earth are we doing making “vast gambles” with the nation’s energy strategy?

41 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2016 4:46 pm

    If we are leaders in wind power how are all wind turbines made abroad: he obviously means that we are the lead mugs in wind power, having subsidised German and Danish companies to sell us white elephants.

    Unfortunately, this madness extends far further, all the recent waste fired and wood fired power plants in the UK are supplied through Spain, Denmark, France etc. The UK seems to have very deep pockets for a country whose manufacturing is being closed down at an alarming rate. The service sector must be magic!

    • August 15, 2016 9:58 pm

      ” lead mugs in wind power” +1

    • Sara Hall permalink
      August 15, 2016 10:22 pm

      Some bits of these things are being made in the UK, unless transporting these monstrosities from the Isle of Wight to Southampton is part of some other sort of scam. I couldn’t believe the size of the single blade that we saw a few weeks ago in Cowes being taken down river by the barge “Blade Runner II”. It must have been over 50m long, as it completely dwarfed the 14m yacht motoring alongside it.
      http://bladerunnershipping.co.uk/v3/

      • August 17, 2016 7:37 am

        I think that the sub-sea structures and anchoring are made in the UK; none of the blades or generators are, which are the “leading technology”.

        It is the sub-sea structures that will be blamed when the white elephants are found to have short operating lives – as yet unknown!

  2. August 15, 2016 4:54 pm

    “As the technology comes of age – akin to gains in US shale fracking – the calculus is starting to vindicate Britain’s vast investment in wind power.”

    Breathtaking nonsense from someone supposed to be an economist. So, the UK was correct to lock itself into 20 year contracts to pay exorbitant sums for immature technology.

    Renewable generators should be obliged to pay for their own storage of surpluses, if that were the case we would soon see how good battery technology really was.

    • August 15, 2016 5:49 pm

      AEP quotes one of the pet academics of the wind industry on the frequency of wind being AWOL, this issue is a vampire that refuses to die, here is what National Grid says:

      Recent history has shown that wind power output at the time of the winter peak can be very low. The winter peak normally occurs when temperatures are low and this often results from anti-cyclonic conditions that also mean very little wind. High pressure normally extends over a large area and this could mean there would be very little wind generation in Western Europe.
      (National Grid, ‘Winter Outlook Report 2009/10’. ‘Generation Side Risks’, 167, p.54).

      • August 15, 2016 6:03 pm

        Graham Sinden has been pushing the line that “the wind is always blowing somewhere” for over 10 years. Unfortunately successive Governments believed his nonsense without checking the details and have created the dire consequences we now face of the effect of intermittent wind with several periods a year of effectively no useful wind.

  3. CheshireRed permalink
    August 15, 2016 5:08 pm

    AEP also advocates ‘carbon capture and storage’. I put it in ‘marks’ because NO such commercially viable CCS system currently exists, yet AEP – an obviously highly intelligent chap, is prepared to hang his hat, reputation and this country’s energy future on an as-yet unavailable technology. Quite insane.
    .
    AEP may also care to learn that I’m going to solve traffic congestion the world over with my new low-carbon zero emissions magic flying carpet. It doesn’t exist yet but hey, that’s just a technicality, right? He can snap up a 10% share in my business for a mere £2 million. (Cash – direct transfer to my Swiss account please, Ambrose.) Can’t go wrong, guaranteed winner, this time next year we’ll all be millionaires etc.

    • August 15, 2016 6:10 pm

      I have developed a cold fusion device that runs on water. I just need £10 million to produce a commercial version. My Swiss bank account is awaiting Ambrose’s contribution.

  4. August 15, 2016 6:12 pm

    ‘tripling offshore capacity to 15 gigawatts (GW) by 2030’

    Note the word ‘capacity’. Last time I looked the UK rated output at an average of 23% of capacity (including planned and unplanned outages, as well as too much or too little wind).
    That’s less than a quarter of capacity.

    You only have to look at any chart or graph of actual wind power delivery to see it goes up and down – including to zero – at random, on a daily basis.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    August 15, 2016 6:21 pm

    “Calm conditions persisting for one day are extremely rare. ……..,” says Graham Sinden from Oxford University.”

    If he read your blog, he wouldn’t make such idiotic statements. 😃

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/how-intermittent-is-wind-power/

    • August 16, 2016 12:26 pm

      Sinden was made to look a complete fool when he gave evidence to a parliamentary committee back in 2004.

      He had correctly claimed that it was very rarely the case that wind failed to generate any power at all anywhere in the UK.

      But, as members of a Select Committee on Science and Technology pointed out, Mr Sinden had cherry-picked the worst possible case and had avoided examining the frequency of very low, rather than zero, wind speeds over the whole of the UK, a fairly frequent occurrence.

      His bluster and BS did not impress the committee!

      (Select Committee on Science and Technology, Minutes of Evidence, 11 February, 2004. Examination of Witnesses, Questions 140-159).

  6. John Peter permalink
    August 15, 2016 6:25 pm

    I wish there was a way to make such great thinkers as this man Sinden, Lord Deben, AEP, Miliband and the rest personally responsible for the harm they are causing. I should add in Cameron for good measure. I wonder how long it will take May to unwind this con with almost all the MP’s continuing to vote for more “Climate Change mitigation” at taxpayer expense. If the Government wants more export to close the trade gap they have no time to waste in reducing industry energy costs.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      August 15, 2016 9:45 pm

      Remember a lot of MP’s vote as they’re instructed, especially if there’s no ‘upside’ to rebelling. In the case of the CC Act the last 3 governments have been nailed-on green blob imbeciles with sizeable MP support, so regardless of private views I suspect a large number of MP’s simply went with the boss to keep him happy and them in his good books.
      If guidance and policy from Downing Street moves towards gas and scrapping the CC Act then many MP’s will magically shift their position too.

  7. AlecM permalink
    August 15, 2016 6:36 pm

    AEP is a good economist, for which read a prognosticator hiding behind weasel words.

    However, to fill the power gap requires rather more in the way of real substance.

    Perhaps he should shut up and leave the job to engineers appropriately trained and willing to accept real responsibility.

    • August 15, 2016 9:38 pm

      I trained first as an economist. So learned the penultimate test of one. Able to argue three different opinions equally convincingly: on the one hand, one the other hand, look Ma (riding bicycle) no hands, just a balancing act. Thats why when two economists meet there are at least four opinions and probably 5.

  8. Oliver K. Manuel permalink
    August 15, 2016 6:39 pm

    There will be no real progress in solving energy needs until we frankly address the mistakes that prevented humanity from taking command of powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction in the last paragraph of Aston’s 1922 Nobel Lecture.

    The problem is outlined in your invitation to the London GeoEthics Conference on 8-9 Sept 2016:

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent. com/u/10640850/ENERGY.docx

    (Change the ending to .pdf if you have Adobe.)

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10640850/ENERGY.docx

  9. martinbrumby permalink
    August 15, 2016 6:52 pm

    Like Social Justice Warriors, Big Wind shills:-

    Always lie.

    When challenged, they always ‘double down’.

    And they always project their shortcomings, accusing their opponents of their faults and dishonesties.

    AEP strikes again!
    Even little Emily has more credibility!

    • Dave Ward permalink
      August 15, 2016 7:04 pm

      “Like Social Justice Warriors, Big Wind shills:-

      Always lie.

      When challenged, they always ‘double down’.

      And they always project their shortcomings, accusing their opponents of their faults and dishonesties”

      For proof (as if any were needed) just follow the ramblings of Pierre Gosselin’s resident green troll “sod” at: http://notrickszone.com/

  10. Dave Ward permalink
    August 15, 2016 6:58 pm

    “Calm conditions persisting for one day are extremely rare. When they do occur, they cover a small fraction of the UK, and there is no evidence to suggest that they persist for long periods of time,” says Graham Sinden from Oxford University

    I have a number of CSV files downloaded from Gridwatch at various times, and one covering 22:00 on the 6th to 21:00 on the 12th of June this year says otherwise. During that period the percentage of demand met by wind varied from barely 0.3%, to, at best, about 2.5% What more “evidence” do you want, Mr Sinden??? If you bothered to check, this sort of weather – it’s known (with good reason) as “Anticyclonic Gloom” – also happens to be a common occurrence in winter. At least in June extra deaths due to the cold are unlikely, which is more than can be said for January or February…

    • August 15, 2016 9:55 pm

      @Ssat said “Graham Sinden’s supposed links to Oxford look pretty tenuous to me.”

      @PhilipB said “Graham Sinden has been pushing the line that “the wind is always blowing somewhere” for over 10 years. Unfortunately successive Governments believed his nonsense without checking the details and have created the dire consequences we now face of the effect of intermittent wind with several periods a year of effectively no useful wind.

  11. Tom O permalink
    August 15, 2016 7:54 pm

    One comment that caught my eye –

    “We live in a world that has just signed the COP21 climate deal in Paris. That implies a steadily rising penalty on carbon emissions. It also implies that those dragging their feet on renewables will ultimately be punished, as the Chinese have grasped.”

    And since the paperwork is actually non-binding, will those that drag there feet ultimately be punished? Especially, In the case of the Chinese, when they are supplying probably 50% or more of the material that the average country today is using? Going to stop buying their stuff when you’ve already shuttered your own factories?

    Also, with the threat of closing industries when it is too cold to supply energy to the plants and heat houses, on a peace time footing, how will shifting to more intermittent power generation possibly supply enough energy to keep industries running full steam and allow people to heat their homes with all the saber rattling going on between NATO and Russia? Going to freeze all pensioners and poor instead?

  12. A C Osborn permalink
    August 15, 2016 8:08 pm

    The FT has a piece on Power Generation, but I can’t read it all as I do not have a subscription.
    But at least they recognise our system is not working.
    http://www.thegwpf.com/ft-british-govt-should-seize-chance-to-overhaul-flawed-eneregy-policy/

    • August 15, 2016 10:02 pm

      sign up for a FT free account and you can read 5 articles per month ..and then try in another browser

    • August 16, 2016 12:09 pm

      The GWPF gives more of the article, enough to see that it is the standard “green” hogwash, OK, you’ve spent billions on wind farms, but that is not enough, you’ve now got to spend billions on research into batteries, them more billions to cover the remaining countryside in battery warehouses.

  13. August 15, 2016 8:30 pm

    The trouble with ‘unreliables’…

  14. August 15, 2016 9:23 pm

    AEP needs to leave the sherry in the cabinet before picking up his pen.

  15. August 16, 2016 6:29 am

    The UK is already world leader in offshore wind. The strategic choice now is whether to go for broke… My own view is that the gamble is worth taking

    Well Ambrose….. since you’re so vehement about it – can we assume that you’ve bet the farm on it?

    thought not

  16. tom0mason permalink
    August 16, 2016 7:04 am

    Why can locals, incomers, and remote officials block fracking, but supporters are ignored, whereas with wind turbines too often local can’t easily block their construction, while remote officials and supporters of wind turbines have their way?

    Double standards or what?

    • August 16, 2016 9:28 am

      Not when you’re saving the planet, tom0.
      Or your income stream.

      • August 16, 2016 11:31 am

        It is the income. Follow the money.

      • tom0mason permalink
        August 16, 2016 6:16 pm

        Yes sometimes the plot gets gummer and gummer.

  17. August 16, 2016 12:37 pm

    “The UK is already world leader in offshore wind”. Translation: ‘The UK is the only country stupid enough to have bet the bank on this ludicrously expensive and unproductive technology’.

    The US has precisely 1 offshore turbine.

    The French have a handful of demonstration turbines.

    The Germans are now blowing cold on offshore and onshore, especially after the hugely expensive problems they have had with cabling faults at Godewind 1 and 2, Bard and Riffgat.

    The Danes recently cancelled 5 consented offshore schemes until at least 2025 because of the potential costs to consumers.

    But it seems costs are no problem in the UK.

    • August 16, 2016 4:22 pm

      We import all the turbines from Denmark and Germany….. the fools of Europe for all to see.
      How can importing someone else’s technology be “leading”?

  18. Gerry, England permalink
    August 16, 2016 12:46 pm

    Anybody recall the moment at the end of ‘The Bridge on he River Kwai’ when Alec Guinness clutches his forehead and says ‘What have I done?’ when it dawns on him he has helped the Japanese? Idiots like AEP will likely do the same when they finally realize how these policies they support are designed to regress the human race and reduce the population. After all, does it never occur to them that there were good reasons our forebears gave up using windmills and watermills (and even tidemills for you barrage fans) to power the economy? Why burning wood, and then charcoal were replaced with coal, or diesel or gas? Energy density! If the whole UK switched to burning wood for heating and maybe even cooking once gas is outlawed, there would be no trees left in a short space of time as wood and trees can’t supply the energy of coal or gas, or heating oil. Allowing huge numbers of the population to die off will help of course but at some point the people will revolt.

    And when it came to the Climate Change Act, all the MPs bar a handful voted for it! The Tories then tried to label it Labour’s CCA but they all voted for it.

  19. Paul2 permalink
    August 16, 2016 2:18 pm

    http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/26/us/us-data-since-1895-fail-to-show-warming-trend.html?src=pm

    ……..before it was fashionable to make up stories about the warming Earth.

    • August 16, 2016 7:08 pm

      Hansen’s response at the time, that since the US represents only 1.5% of the earth’s surface it is “not surprising” that no warming had been observed, was quite correct if a touch naive. I haven’t seen anyone repeat it quite as bluntly since. Flannel has replaced fact.

      It is interesting to compare that report with Kenneth Richards’ article (Abundant Scientific Evidence that “Global Warming” is a Made-Up Concept) at NoTricksZone. He argues there is no “global” warming and backs it up with copious references. The net effect over the last 100+ years is that “the globe” may have warmed by around 1°C if you believe the multifariously adjusted record from a limited and ever-decreasing number of recording stations but “global” it ain’t.

      Inevitably there are accusations of cherry-picking which records to use (now as then) but is that any worse than cherry-picking where you put your thermometers or “adjusting” good data (from buoys) to agree with bad data (from ships’ buckets)?

  20. August 17, 2016 5:06 am

    And the developing world looks on while Europe and the US commit economic suicide.

  21. Dave Ward permalink
    August 17, 2016 10:24 am

    The Guardian’s story on the Hornsea One project conveniently fails to mention the costs, but rather surprisingly the commenters seem to have (largely) seen through the scam:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/16/hornsea-project-two-windfarm-second-phase-grimsby

    Maybe there IS some light at the end of the tunnel?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 17, 2016 12:56 pm

      Don’t worry, they will be blocked and their comments deleted once the Guardian Comment Gestapo get round to it.

  22. August 17, 2016 10:30 pm

    AEP gets it in the neck from the GWPF.

    ‘…anyone reading Mr Evans-Pritchard’s articles and concluding that the world’s energy woes were on the point of solution, and he himself encourages this with a rousing call to “Rejoice”, would have been seriously misled.’
    http://www.thegwpf.com/offshore-wind-intermittency-and-electricity-storage/

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