A New Study Takes The Wind Out Of Wind Energy

by Robert Bryce, Forbes.com

Facts are pesky things. And they’re particularly pesky when it comes to the myths about the wind energy business.  For years, it’s been an article of faith among advocates of renewables that increased use of wind energy can provide a cost-effective method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The reality: wind energy’s carbon dioxide-cutting benefits are vastly overstated. Furthermore, if wind energy does help reduce carbon emissions, those reductions are too expensive to be used on any kind of scale.  Read article

23 thoughts on “A New Study Takes The Wind Out Of Wind Energy

  1. “The Bentek report provides yet more bad news for the subsidy-dependent wind business, which is already on its heels. Low natural gas prices, the economic downturn, and uncertainty about the continuation of federal subsidies have left the wind industry in tatters. In 2010, total U.S. wind generation capacity grew by 5,100 megawatts, about half as much capacity as was added in 2009. During the first quarter this year, new wind installations totaled just 1,100 megawatts, indicating that this year will likely be even worse than 2010. ”
    So here we are — Picture McGuinty et al: “Bring me your turnines, bring me your solar, and we shall pay you” — Time to end subsidies is NOW!

  2. It is amazing what can be discovered when real data is studied, as opposed to computer models.

    • But it’s a lot more work if you have to look for and use real data to back up whatever it is that you are pushing off on the public.

  3. It is unfortunate to see the fossil fuel industry continue its misinformation campaign to muddy the waters about one of the indisputable benefits of wind energy – its success in reducing the use of fossil fuels and the harmful emissions associated with their use. It should be noted that Robert Bryce, the author of this article, is a senior fellow at the Exxon-Mobil-funded Manhattan Institute, and the report he is referencing was written by Bentek, a natural gas consulting firm whose President and CEO happens to be the Chairman and Director of the Natural Gas Committee of the fossil fuel lobby group the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, as well as a member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

    Unsurprisingly, the Bentek report is directly contradicted by a large body of government data and numerous studies by independent grid operators conclusively showing that the emissions savings of adding wind energy to the grid are substantially larger than had been expected. Bentek’s report is filled with a number of salient errors, most notably that the authors used a method that takes very small snapshots of the power grid in both time and geographic space, and thus overlooks a large share of the emissions savings produced by wind energy. As an example, Bentek’s methodology gives wind energy deployed in California or in the Pacific Northwest no credit for the emissions reductions achieved by reducing coal electricity imported from other states, which is a main reason why the report so grossly understated the actual emissions benefit of wind in those regions. As another example, their methodology gives wind energy credit for only one hour of emissions savings when it forces a coal power plant to turn off for a much longer period of time, and it gives no credit to wind energy when it allows the grid operator to store additional water behind a hydroelectric dam that is used to displace fossil generation later on, both of which are common events. The flaws in Bentek’s work are too numerous to discuss here, although the following fact sheet lists many of them as well as providing the detailed results of government data and grid operator studies that conclusively show that wind energy significantly reduces fossil fuel use and emissions:
    http://www.awea.org/newsroom/realstories/The-Facts-about-Wind-Energy-and-Emissions.cfm

    Michael Goggin,
    American Wind Energy Association

    • Sir,
      How unfortunate – you noticed the rumble
      and felt compelled – to set the record straight.
      Too bad – citizens do not want to live in poverty
      because you want to – save the planet.
      Now – please
      Go Away!

    • The latest Canadian GHG inventory, for 2009 (deep recession and 6 years into a clean government), showed Ontario’s CO2eq emissions intensity at 110 g CO2 eq/kWh.
      The same figure, for 1994 was 104 g CO2 eq/kWh). Ontario figures are a little lower than the BPA area in the study.
      It is a peculiar, and perhaps sadistic, perspective that somehow whenever the wind blows it replaces exactly what you wish it to replace.
      In Ontario, we have little reservoir power, and much of our hydro serves to keep the grid balanced. At Beck that means letting water flow over the falls instead of through turbines. It is expected on a summer day the wind’s capacity factor will drop about 4% between 3am and 11am, while demand surges by about 6000MW. Not only is there little storage, we are likely to dump more water to have the peaking capacity to concurrently meet increasing demand while compensating for the declining production from the disappointing embarrassment of the generation family that is wind power.

      • Q.Scott. If Ontario dosen’t use/spills water then dosen’t that leave more water for more electric generation on the American side of the Falls? This whole thing smacks of being able to use Canadian energy for little or no cost to others.

    • This comment does seem valid in pointing out the difficulties in measuring what is occurring. I’ve become of the opinion unless we have actual smokestack emissions it’s not measurable.
      Quite right to state there is emissions savings in taking a coal plant off-line for an extended period of tiime, but quite another to state forcing coal, or gas, into more jerky output is saving much, if anything.
      I would point out the majority of wind in Ontario is owned by the types of firms Mr. Goggin slanders the Bentek report by association with – so lets just leave that one.
      I checked briefly the response (I have no intention of reading the Bentek report, so I really don’t mean to support it), and well done on finding 2008 to 2007 as a comparison.
      But 2009 to 2007 puts Colorado’s emissions reduction performance right back to about the US-Total for CO2 and well below for NOx and SO2. I am yet to see one iota of evidence that wind is an intelligent use of funds utilized toward achieving any goal.

    • Just a simple question based on this…

      and it gives no credit to wind energy when it allows the grid operator to store additional water behind a hydroelectric dam that is used to displace fossil generation later on, both of which are common events.

      What is the net efficiency of this procedure… i.e. how much power is required to do the pumping, and what amount of power is produced by the pumped water.

      I am betting that the efficiency is low and the amount of water power provided by the pumped water is low.

      I suspect that this is only suitable for small scale production where no other means is available.

  4. Mr. Goggin.

    The constant accusations toward anyone who doesn’t buy what you’re selling, that they are “funded by the fossil fuel industry”, is really laughable because here in Ontario, most of the big players ARE the oil industry. Enbridge, Suncor, TransAlta (Alberta oilsands) all operate large wind projects in Ontario and directly fund the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

    Why would they launch a “misinformation campaign” (as you call it)…against themselves?!

    You are either suffering from extreme paranoia or you are grasping at straws. The natural gas industry LOVE you guys. The more turbines, the more natural gas peaker plants are needed. Ask Robert F. Kennedy. In his words “Wind is Gas”.

  5. I disagree folks , Mr. Goggin took time to post on here and make some points.
    It is never a bad thing to have dialogue with people.
    I’d rather make a friend than an enemy.
    So at least for myself I apopolize and thank you for commenting.

      • Well…Mr. Goggin

        We’d appreciate some “openness” in return. Please explain to me why fossil fuel companies would launch a “misinformation campaign” against themselves here in Ontario?

      • MA:

        You should ask those questions of Robert Bryce and Porter Bennett, the head of Bentek. They are the ones who are part of the fossil fuel lobby.

      • I’m questioning the logic of your conspiracy theory, Mr. Goggin.

        The fossil fuel companies such as Suncor, TransAlta and Enbridge operate very large wind facilities here and directly fund CanWEA.

      • Wisconsin wants to make a deal for Manatoba power which will get that Sate off the wind turine hook with their people and Vermont wants to use Quebec power to get out of nuclear and off form this hook with their people. Ontario is next to furnish power and get U.S. politicians off the hook with their renewable energy schemes?

      • Hi Mr. Goggin,

        It’s nice to be in a position – such as yours – when government
        mandates your Wind business and throws taxpayer money behind it.
        I’d act like a ‘hot shot’ too.
        I’d be jumping up and down on my bed.

        Can you imagine –
        a government telling citizens they have to buy your product
        [pause and reflect].

        Now your wind business has a problem –
        fossil fuel lobby – speaking out.
        The fossil fuel lobby – beholden to shareholders only, can’t lie
        to their shareholders – shareholders are in it – too make money.
        ….so, are you following?

        If the fossil fuel lobby is speaking out – maybe shareholders
        are getting a little – let’s say – scared.
        And, then there’s the Boone thingy…..

        Moral of the story…………..
        It’s against the law – to lie to shareholders.
        It’s obvious by now – shareholders know the truth.

        Hey, Mr. Goggin – it’s been nice talk’n to ya.

        p.s. I hear Al Gore – is lick’n his chops – to give it
        one last go – to save your business, and his.
        ……..or is he – still trying to save the planet?

        This is one critical response (short) of many:
        2011/05/response-to-american-wind-energy-association
        If Wind were not man-dated by regulation
        http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/response-to-american-wind-energy-association_v1.pdf

  6. Standing up to the U.S Feds……………

    Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R)
    coming out in support of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R).

    Republicans have a majority in the House – therefore, the Energy Bill is stalled.
    And, hopefully dead.
    Governor Scott Walker – is amazing.
    He has a high school education, and a whole lot of “Common Sense.

    Democrats are furious!

    This is not about – pollution.
    This is about Big Money!

    By the way, Canada has no NAFTA agreement – when it comes to electricity.
    It will be interesting to see if T. Boone Pickens follows through on his threat –
    to bring forward a grievance against – nobody knows who –
    Canada (?) or Ontario (?).

    I believe it won’t happen – but, if it does, it will be interesting to see how
    the World Trade Organization responds.

    Living on the edge………..

    • NAFTA does indeed seem to apply to electricity: See 602 h) — bolded.

      First NAFTA: http://www.nafta-sec-alena.org/en/view.aspx?conID=590&mtpiID=ALL
      ***********************************
      Article 602: Scope and Coverage

      1. This Chapter applies to measures relating to energy and basic petrochemical goods originating in the territories of the Parties and to measures relating to investment and to the cross-border trade in services associated with such goods, as set forth in this Chapter.

      2. For purposes of this Chapter, energy and basic petrochemical goods refer to those goods classified under the Harmonized System as:

      a) subheading 2612.10;


      g) heading 27.11 (except for ethylene, propylene, butylene and butadiene in purities over 50 percent);

      h) headings 27.12 through 27.16;

      i) subheadings 2844.10 through 2844.50 (only with respect to uranium compounds classified under those subheadings);

      j) subheading 2845.10; and

      k) subheading 2901.10 (only with respect to ethane, butanes, pentanes, hexanes, and heptanes).
      *****************************

      To verify that electricity is indeed in the Harmonized System — go here: http://www.foreign-trade.com/reference/hscode.cfm?code=2716

      So he may get his day in NAFTA court…

  7. Rule #1
    Don’t believe everything you read……provided you understand it.
    Each Country tweeted -a bit.

    Japan is screaming “Protectionism” – and they want all jobs
    to remain in Japan – or over there – someplace
    – to remain Global

    Now you have the EU and WTO supporting Japan.
    The EU is collapsing – so they should be screaming.
    So – now what?

    Oh – and it’s election time in Ontario – Oh My!
    Everything is falling apart like a cheap $20. suit.

    Decisions! Decisions!

    But – we will wait a see!

  8. Ross McKitrick, University of Guelph economist (i.e. he is independent and he has some expertise in this area) has indicated that if your goal is to reduce CO2 emissions or air pollution, wind power is one of the least effective and most expensive ways to attempt to do so.

    In other words, no rational person would choose wind power as a method for reducing CO2 or air pollution because it is ineffective and expensive compared to the alternatives. If you accept this position, then there is no point debating the many underlying details.

  9. Glad Ross McKitrick’s name came up. The process of determining if IWTs actually reduce carbon emissions is a lot more complicated than a simple displacement of equivalent hourly average of MW IWT production. As much as hourly averages are used they provide an illusion IWT production is more stable than it is. No grid manager would indicate the ability to hold back water at dam facilities as a good match with IWT operations. Most often water would be spilt over the dam as most reservoirs have limited capacity and have legal requirements to maintain minimum flows for downstream users, including ecological habitats. The sporadic production of IWTs when combined with hydro does not reduce carbon emissions but makes hydro dams less efficient.

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