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Dumb Power

June 18, 2018

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby


This article in American Thinker covers much of the same ground I have , but it is interesting looking at it from the US perspective:



Wind and solar electricity are renewable energy.  How nice to pluck energy out of the air and the sky.

It’s a scam.  Big money men and screwball dreamers, otherwise called environmentalists, are behind the scam.

Apparently, it has not dawned on the believers in the scam that solar does not work at night, and wind works only when the wind is blowing.  The core characteristic of wind and solar is that they are erratic sources of electricity.  The supply is randomly intermittent.  Who in Hell thinks this dumb energy is a good way to supply electricity?

The wind and solar promoters, in order to accommodate their dumb energy, demand that the electric grid be re-engineered to become a "smart" grid.  Perhaps the idea is that if the grid is smart enough, the dumb energy will be canceled by the smart grid.  That’s actually what the smart grid people have in mind.  The smart grid is supposed to be agile enough to fill in the gaps when the wind or solar is playing hooky.

The intellectual mind values an elegant theory over a messy reality.  The result is tension between ivory tower thinkers and practical men working in the trenches of the economy.  The practical men easily see the weaknesses in abstract theories, weaknesses that are invisible to the ivory tower thinkers.  But the practical men are not equipped to assert or defend their reality in political, media, or academic circles.  If they try, they are patronized and ignored.  A seductive theory trumps pedestrian and annoying facts in the intellectual mind.  For this reason, ridiculously impracticable renewable energy finds wide support in academic, environmental, and government circles – circles populated by thinkers accustomed to mobilizing the power of the state to promote impractical ideas with the taxpayers’ money.  For these thinkers, evidence that contradicts their beliefs must be bad evidence.

In the supposedly hard-headed Wall Street Journal, Russell Gold writes that "global investment in wind and solar energy is outshining fossil fuels."  He claims that Alberta is getting subsidy-free wind electricity for $37 a megawatt-hour.  That’s $28 U.S.  Since real subsidy-free wind electricity costs about $10 Canadian, something is wrong here.  What’s wrong is that the media have lost their minds.  Five minutes with Google is enough to discover that Albertan electricity is indeed subsidized.  What we have here is a mania and a suspension of critical judgment.  No lie about renewable energy is too big to be believed, even by the Wall Street Journal.  There are 600 comments to the Journal article.  The commentators, evidently practical men, point out the errors and fallacies in the article.

In the U.S., it is hard to keep track of all the subsidies for renewable energy.  I’d be surprised if it is very different in Canada.  Some subsidies are blatant, like a $24-per-megawatt-hour payment from the federal treasury for the production of wind electricity, or a 30% tax credit for the construction of a solar energy farm.  Some subsidies are buried in accounting complexities like rapid depreciation that allows for complicated tax gimmicks that effectively take money from the federal treasury and give it to renewable energy investors.  Then there are renewable portfolio laws in 30 states setting goals for renewable energy.  The result is that wind and solar installations get long-term guaranteed markets at high prices for their electricity.  Grid operators are required to accept all wind and solar electricity offered unless they, more or less, declare an emergency.

Assuming a windy or a sunny place, wind or solar electricity costs around $70 a megawatt-hour to produce.  Even though no fuel is used, the capital cost spread over the electricity produced makes the renewable energy more expensive than using fossil fuel.  With natural gas, you can produce electricity for around $50 per megawatt-hour.  Those numbers are the cost at the plant fence – not a fair comparison.  It’s not a fair comparison because when you build a wind or solar plant, you don’t get to take away the natural gas plant.  It’s still there to back up the wind or solar.  Wind or solar is an add-on to the grid, not a real part of the grid.  All the wind or solar does that is useful is to save some fuel at the backup plant, usually a natural gas plant, during moments when the wind or solar is actually generating electricity.  That fuel for a gas plant costs about $20 per megawatt-hour.  So wind or solar costs $70 per megawatt-hour in order to save $20’s worth of fuel per megawatt-hour.  The net loss to the economy is $70 minus $20, or $50 for every megawatt-hour of wind or solar electricity produced.  That $50 has to come from someplace.  That loss to the economy is a subsidy.  Someone has to pay for it.  It comes from blatant subsidies, sneaky subsidies, and higher prices for electricity.

Some advocates of renewable energy claim that the extra cost is worth it, because wind and solar don’t emit CO2, thus helping in the fight against global warming.  There are numerous holes in that argument.  The bulk of the CO2 emissions are from Asia, where they burn an ever increasing amount of carbon-rich coal to generate electricity.  U.S. CO2 emissions have been declining due to the substitution of natural gas for coal.  Spending fantastic sums to decrease U.S. emissions will have a very minor effect unless something is done about Asia.  The bigger picture is that there has been little global warming during the last 20 years in the face of rapidly increasing CO2 emissions.  The obvious conclusion is that the global warming scare is more propaganda than substance.  Of course, the scientific organizations with huge budgets based on the scary prospect of global warming can’t let it go because they would lose the justification for their big budgets.  Did you ever hear of a scientific organization shrinking because the problem it was formed to solve does not, after all, exist?  If you really want to seriously reduce CO2 emissions, the solution is nuclear power.  The sincerest believers in global warming, like James Hansen and Stewart Brand, are advocating nuclear power.

Environmental groups, particularly the Sierra Club, run scare campaigns against fossil fuels.  Everything they don’t like either causes cancer or does something bad to children.  They don’t like coal; they don’t like nuclear.  They even don’t like hydro if a dam is involved.  The environmental outfits relentlessly spread scare propaganda.  They promote the basically useless wind and solar.  They pretend and perhaps actually believe that wind and solar represent some sort of energy salvation.  They are modern-day crackpots and snake oil salesmen.

  1. Charles Wardrop permalink
    June 18, 2018 10:10 am

    Wonderful, detailed summary of renewables realities. Irrefutable.
    Should be widely read, especially byresonsible politicos, though how many are there?
    Clearly exemplifies scams permitted by subsidisation: NB: those holding public money bags!

  2. Colin Brooks permalink
    June 18, 2018 10:43 am

    In the USA this article will get read but in the UK? The Maybot has already shut down all media coverage of the massive Muslim rape gang problems and also the jailing of Tommy Robinson for trying to report on it. Do you know about marchers in the streets of London and the police action against them (in the last week)? Thought not. This country is in great danger and the crazy power generation problems are only a part of it.

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      June 18, 2018 11:27 am

      It is often said that democracy is rule by the mediocre majority of the population: the UK government seems to fit that. In practice, we have rule by the oligocracy: a small group who control almost all media outlets and government policy, unfortunately, somehow even the BBC. Have you seen any serious criticism of Saudi for their escapades in Yemen or Israel for shooting unarmed protesters? Why not???

      The news in the UK is full of internal party politics, trivial personalities and issues that make the majority switch off. We watched an old news, recorded by mistake, recently and it was about 15 minutes before we realised that it was a few days old!

      But back to the article above: a first class explanation of the split that is occurring between the control groups and the proles. Fortunately, in the west, the proles can vote the controllers out sometimes. Germany seems to be seeing the light at last.

      • June 18, 2018 11:55 am

        “Have you seen any serious criticism of Saudi for their escapades in Yemen or Israel for shooting unarmed protesters?”

        They talk of little else on the BBC World Service, but the UK domestic news is indeed mostly trivia.

        “Fortunately, in the west, the proles can vote the controllers out sometimes”. I strongly disagree with such optimism, the controllers are no longer politicians, they are in the BBC, education, the Civil Service, etc.

    • June 18, 2018 1:48 pm

      You’re not very smart are you? You give that away at the very start with your “Maybot” appellation. How childish it is. If you think a PM of this country has the power to muzzle the press you are totally delusional.

      • bob permalink
        June 18, 2018 7:31 pm

        David. Have you not heard of a D notice? Issued by Govt and / or courts it bans reporting. A D notice was issued to ban the reporting of the arrest and imprisonment of Tommy Robinson on 26 May 2018. Without having access to his own lawyer, Robinson was summarily tried and sentenced to 13 months behind bars. He was then transported to Hull Prison. The judge who sentenced Robinson also ordered British media not to report on his case. Newspapers that had already posted reports of his arrest quickly took them down. All this happened on the same day. Robinson’s crime was using a smart phone outside a court to broadcast about the Asian grooming and rapist gang trials. If you dont know this story then it shows how controlled the media are.
        Furthermore D notices and censorship orders were issued over reporting of the Skripal incident. No free interviews have been broadcast of the 3 poisoning victims. No interview of the consultant doctor Stephen Davies at Salisbury NHS who wrote a letter in The Times on 14 March stating that ‘no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning.’ All reporting of the Skripal event has been controlled and censored; only official Govt media releases have been broadcast or published. We dont have a free Press in the UK.
        Remember how Greg Dyke had to resign from Head of the BBC for allowing Andrew Gilligan to issue his report claiming Blair and the secret services had ‘sexed up ‘ his dodgy dossier. Dyke was right but the Govt forced him out for daring to critique Govt statements.
        So Blair did muzzle the press. Though eventually, years later, the truth came out.

      • Colin Brooks permalink
        June 19, 2018 11:54 am

        David, It also has not been reported that Tommy has been moved to another prison (so far I have no idea which one). Remember that he was taken for supposedly reporting on just how widespread the Muslim grooming gangs have been operating across the UK; He was moved to a wing in another prison which has a 70% Muslim population.
        When I was a great deal younger: Mensa put my IQ in the top 1% of the population (one test supervised by Mensa and one test by mail and the two results were almost identical).I do not have a degree though 🙂

  3. June 18, 2018 10:46 am

    I particularly like this bit:

    “For this reason, ridiculously impracticable renewable energy finds wide support in academic, environmental, and government circles – circles populated by thinkers accustomed to mobilizing the power of the state to promote impractical ideas with the taxpayers’ money.”

    I think that applies across the western world.

    • June 18, 2018 1:49 pm

      Very, very true.

    • June 18, 2018 3:39 pm

      Ah yes…. Claire Perry“using the might of the public sector to drive differential behaviors” (@1m40sec) – springs directly into what’s left of my mind.

      I’m not convinced much thinking is involved – it’s more blind instinct in the direction of a trough imho.

      • Rowland P permalink
        June 18, 2018 5:05 pm

        They have a behavioural change unit embedded in Downing Street….

  4. Robin Guenier permalink
    June 18, 2018 10:58 am

    Comments on the AT article include (by “cupera2):

    A Diesel in the Shed.

    You can have your solar panels
    and your turbines on the hills;
    You can use the warmth of sunshine
    to reduce your heating bills.

    You can dream you’re self-sufficient
    as you weed your veggie bed;
    As long as you make sure to keep
    A diesel in the shed.

  5. Sheri permalink
    June 18, 2018 11:11 am

    If you read the comments, it is terrifying just how abjectly stupid Americans are. Electricity is magic to them and they believe anything the wind and solar theives tell them. It does not bode well for their grandchildren not freezing to death and living in squalor. I was shocked at the level of stupidity involved.

    Worse, even the so-called conservatives proudly declare their abject stupidity by backing wind and solar. Wyoming is going full-scale Obama worship with thousands of the eagle killers and proudly crowing about it. I fully expect a sign on the interstate to mark the Obama Legacy Wind Farm on I80 (a thousand bird killing turbines to enrich a billionaire), put there to benefit Anschutz of Colorado and to show Wyoming’s undying LOVE for the best president ever.

    As noted in the comments, saying a state is behind in wind and solar is like saying a state is behind in whooping cough or measles cases. After all, it’s important everyone fail at the same rate. Equality, you know.

    • Rowland P permalink
      June 18, 2018 5:07 pm

      Follow the money….

  6. June 18, 2018 11:20 am

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:

  7. June 18, 2018 11:20 am

    “Everything they don’t like either causes cancer or does something bad to children.”

    I never hear them railing against Planned Parenthood which actually exists to eliminate children.

  8. Pat permalink
    June 18, 2018 11:40 am

    I think that every time someone says that solar or wind are cost competitive with conventional power, it should be pointed out that subsidies are therefore obsolete and should be abolished.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      June 18, 2018 12:44 pm

      And then wait for their screams….

  9. June 18, 2018 11:58 am

    Renewable energy should properly be called “Intermittent Energy” and assigned an intermittency factor (ranging say from 0.5 to 0.2?).

    A 1 MW gas turbine providing constant power would need to be replaced by an intermittent facility with say a factor of 0.5 capable of generating at least in excess of 2 MW. being 1 MW for consumption and 1 MW for storage.

    It would then need to have sufficient storage capability to supply the 1 MW for the period required as determined by statistical analysis of the weather patterns at the location.
    An example of this being the recent Wind drought in the U.K. of some 9 days.

    As for storage, the Dinorwic facility in Wales UK has a capacity of about 9.1 GWHrs and can supply 1.650 MW to the grid but only for a period of 7 Hrs. This would mean that some 30 of these would be needed to cover the period of 9 days.
    Dinorwic is impressive and cost a bomb and I understand operates at about 75% efficiency. It also needed a convenient mountain and two lakes.
    All in all this intermittent facility becomes extraordinarily expensive.

    If you multiply this up to service the whole grid it blows the mind, however much you play with the figures.

  10. Broadlands permalink
    June 18, 2018 1:38 pm

    If the question is about renewables, all life on this planet is a “renewable” and added together it is “biomass”. Trying to parse it, divide it up, manage it, control it for whatever reason is not possible except temporarily. Via photosynthesis “biomass” is created and via recycling (aerobic and anaerobic) it is renewed. If some of it is buried, long-term, it might become a “fossil fuel” and the life-giving oxygen it created is added, mol-for-mol. That is what Nature did. If that were not true we wouldn’t be here to debate it. And our ability to renew is still growing along with our needs for energy to keep it going.

  11. June 18, 2018 1:51 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  12. David Richardson permalink
    June 18, 2018 3:46 pm

    Hells Bells Homewood you are just promoting another one of those people (Norman Rodgers) who like facts and reality. – and have a brain.

    By the way I see today’s climate change scare is the Banana – apparently they have never had the average temperature change before so they are going to die out – Oh! unless you give us some money to breed climate change resistent varieties. Yes we do admit that disease is a problem, but it’s the climate causing all this!!! send us the money…….

  13. Stonyground permalink
    June 18, 2018 6:04 pm

    It long ago occurred to me that in order to establish the cost effectiveness and practicality of wind and solar energy, all that was needed was a single solar panel and one wind turbine. Monitor the output for a few years and you would have a pretty good idea of the cost and what you would get for your cash. At this point the whole idea could have been quietly put to bed and we could have got on with the cracking.

    On an recent thread here someone made a quip about the way in which the BBC reports literally anything. It was something along the lines of, the BBC have reported that the Jones’s cat has had a litter of kittens. The incident is thought to have been caused by climate change and next door’s Tom cat. This gag seems to have endless possibilities. The BBC reports long delays on the M1 today while a lorry had a tyre change. The cause was said to be climate change and a six inch nail.

  14. Gamecock permalink
    June 18, 2018 10:12 pm

    ‘Wind or solar is an add-on to the grid, not a real part of the grid.’

    Indeed. They’ll never be more than supplemental.

    ‘All the wind or solar does that is useful is to save some fuel at the backup plant, usually a natural gas plant, during moments when the wind or solar is actually generating electricity. That fuel for a gas plant costs about $20 per megawatt-hour. So wind or solar costs $70 per megawatt-hour in order to save $20’s worth of fuel per megawatt-hour. The net loss to the economy is $70 minus $20, or $50 for every megawatt-hour of wind or solar electricity produced.’

    Well said. In accounting terms, the fuel is variable cost. The fixed cost for the gas plant is accrued whether it is used or not. Wind/solar have variable cost approaching zero, but their fixed cost is extreme.

    ‘Renewable energy’ defies the law of conservation of energy. It is nonsense.

    • nigel permalink
      June 19, 2018 7:06 am

      That part of the fixed cost which is related to original cost is a sunk cost and is not a present loss to the economy. The accounting entry is a belated recognition of the real, historic, economic loss suffered* while the plant was being built. A rational person never considers sunk costs. A rational person also, of course, looks at his “white elephants” and “blots on the landscape” and decides to not make any more!

      Accounting conventions and economic rationales do not always coincide in the short run.
      Thus, financial accounting and management accounting are not identical.

      Subsidies are transfer payments and thus a form of tax and redistribution. Their study is part of another discipline, called National Income Accounting.

      *At the very least, a lot of people could have stayed in bed, rather than go to work on the site! Leisure is an excellent economic good which we can all make on our own. Parents discourage its production, however.

  15. June 19, 2018 7:46 pm

    Coal-fired plants are currently being shut down before their useful life. Where I live, Arizona, the Page Navajo Plant is being shut down in 2019 – it was built to last until 2044. One can only wonder at the plans to replace this enormous power-generating capacity. I certainly hope it’s natural gas or nuclear; but fear it’s more solar panel and wind turbines.

    • mikewaite permalink
      June 20, 2018 7:15 am

      Gregole, interesting that you mention the Page Navajo plant because we were on a tour of the SW USA last year , visiting the Hoover and Glen canyon dams and at the latter the navajo plant can be seen in the distance, just a few wisps of steam emerging . The tour guide said that the Navajo plant produced more power than the 2 hydro plants combined . In that area, to my inexpert eye, the coal appears to rise up out of the ground, all along the motorway.

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