Long time readers will know that I fully disclose that my livelihood comes via the oil and gas industry. They will also know that I am no big fan of “alternative” energy generation, especially wind power. It is not that I don’t think that we need to explore additional sources of energy or that we won’t eventually run out of hydrocarbon based energy, it is based on the fact that politics (the “OMG! Do something! Now!” errors), idol worship (Gaia theory and climate “science”) and pop culture ( climate “change” became a cause celeb) has overcome the actual physical science of how things work.
The Germans are having a hell of a time with power now after they announced a populist/green weenie program to shut down all their nukes and replace that lost generating capacity with wind and solar. Now Christopher Booker, writing in the UK Telegraph, tells my adopted countrymen (at least for the next four months or so) that it is time to wake up and smell the scones baking:
On Friday, September 14, just before 10am, Britain’s 3,500 wind turbines broke all records by briefly supplying just over four gigawatts (GW) of electricity to the national grid. Three hours later, in Germany, that country’s 23,000 wind turbines and millions of solar panels similarly achieved an unprecedented output of 31GW. But the responses to these events in the two countries could not have been in starker contrast.
In Britain, the wind industry proclaimed a triumph. Maria McCaffery, the CEO of RenewableUK, crowed that “this record high shows that wind energy is providing a reliable, secure supply of electricity to an ever-growing number of British homes and businesses” and that “this bountiful free resource will help drive down energy bills”. But in Germany, the news was greeted with dismay, for reasons which merit serious attention here in Britain.
Germany is way ahead of us on the very path our politicians want us to follow – and the problems it has encountered as a result are big news there. In fact, Germany is being horribly caught out by precisely the same delusion about renewable energy that our own politicians have fallen for. Like all enthusiasts for “free, clean, renewable electricity”, they overlook the fatal implications of the fact that wind speeds and sunlight constantly vary. They are taken in by the wind industry’s trick of vastly exaggerating the usefulness of wind farms by talking in terms of their “capacity”, hiding the fact that their actual output will waver between 100 per cent of capacity and zero. In Britain it averages around 25 per cent; in Germany it is lower, just 17 per cent.
The more a country depends on such sources of energy, the more there will arise – as Germany is discovering – two massive technical problems. One is that it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain a consistent supply of power to the grid, when that wildly fluctuating renewable output has to be balanced by input from conventional power stations. The other is that, to keep that back-up constantly available can require fossil-fuel power plants to run much of the time very inefficiently and expensively (incidentally chucking out so much more “carbon” than normal that it negates any supposed CO2 savings from the wind).
This is simply not mission ready tech. Yes, power can be generated, yes wind is “renewable” and yes, it is clean.
But it is not consistent, it does not match with the energy demand profile of civilization, it is not controllable or “bankable”, it is not “free” or cheap and most importantly of all, it is far too inefficient in a total systems sense.
The limitations on wind, wave, tidal and sea current generation is not that they won’t work at all, it is that they won’t work with any degree of efficiency and have the same bane as electric cars – there is no effective way to store the energy. The appropriate storage tech simply does not exist. Without that, these forms of energy are doomed to actual delivered efficiency of less than 25% – and that won’t cut it. Scaling up by adding more wind generation capacity can’t overcome this, there isn’t enough surface area on the globe to do it.
Energy generation, transmission and use is a system based proposition and any failure in any link of that chain renders that energy source ineffective. Hydrocarbon based energy has the best delivery system of any form of energy.
I have noted over and over that there is no competitive form of material that shares these attributes with hydrocarbons:
- Other products can be derived from it,
- That generates more power per unit of consumption,
- That is as transportable,
- That is as safe and,
- That is as cheap (even at today’s prices).