The Dangerous Road Ahead: The Wind Industry – Status Report
There are good reasons for serious and responsible players in the wind industry to be concerned about the industry’s future, and perhaps even more about corporate and personal liabilities. Liabilities there are, but for whom and when will they come visiting, are in the process of being established.
Encouraged by now seen to be ignorant politicians, supported by the Clean Energy Council (the renewable energy industry lobby group), too well-nurtured experts, politically sensitive bureaucrats, and a rag tag of climate alarmists, this undeserving industry has literally enjoyed a golden run at the expense of power consumers.
The golden run has finished. To use the language of modern warfare, the road ahead for this industry is mined with a series of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) already embedded along that now more difficult road. But with a difference. These IEDs are capable of multiple explosions over a period of time.
IED 1- Power Reliability
IED 1 has successfully triggered the collapse of power supplies in South Australia. This failure had been forecast by a number of power and other engineers as far back as 2006.
IED 2 – Also Power Reliability
IED 2 will be detonated sometime after the upcoming closure of Hazelwood, a major Victorian brown coal power generator, (capable of producing some 1600 MW (18.4%) of the Victorian total base load capacity (coal and gas) of 8,716 MW). Not only will this closure bring similar problems in Victoria but it will exacerbate the existing instability of the South Australian power grid. [See “Will the Lights Go Out in Victoria or Just Industry – Tom Quirk and Paul Miskelly”]
Ignorant politicians cannot admit to, let alone take preventative action regarding, this uncertainty of power supply. Presently Victoria’s fossil-fuelled base load capacity is acting as a not always available prop for South Australia’s unreliable power supply.
Not surprisingly, there has been much soul searching about power reliability by those sections of the press not pledged to urging renewables on our society regardless of the costs and other clear negatives.
This soul searching is now leading to speculation about the economic and social impacts of increases in power costs.
IED 3 – Power Costs
The impact of renewables, and particularly wind power, on power costs is now a frequent topic for the press and the Commonwealth Government. The debate is already public and for the industry there will be no place to hide. Business and the public will demand an answer. We can expect more detonations from this IED.
IED 4 – RETS, RECs and Massive Subsidies
Any answer on power costs will then lead to increasingly better informed questions about the RETs and the REC scheme of unsustainable subsidies for wind power.
If this was the sum of the problems facing the industry one could assume that the building of substantial new wind projects in their present form and choice of locations will cease sometime soon.
Unfortunately for the industry there are two more IEDs lying in wait with supplementary detonation capacity being added continuously but so far out of the sight of wind industry management.
IED 5 – The GHG Savings Myth
Detonation of this myth is an inevitable extension of the public alarm and discussions on subsidies and power unreliability. The extension will involve a dawning realisation that wind power intermittency inevitably consumes all or most of the gross CO2 savings produced by wind generators by the need for standby power balancing facilities, which increasingly will be the task of purpose built gas driven generators. Independent analysts have calculated that net savings in CO2 emissions are nil or thereabouts.
Trumpeting, as they do, the gross and not the net savings could open the industry to accusations of wholesale and widespread fraud. Technically speaking wind turbine projects are not fit for purpose, i.e., saving GHG emissions in power generation.
IED 6 – Human Health Impacts
This is a final game changer. It involves the impact of sound pressure waves from wind turbines on humans. So far denial of reported impacts by industry, well-paid captive noise experts and technically underpowered commentators, have bought the industry time and underpinned ongoing cash flows for projects. It cannot last.
The industry must be aware of a recent Irish High Court hearing on turbine “noise” where the defendant admitted that its turbines were the cause of the impacts that were the basis of the appellants’ actions. A decision on damages and perhaps exemplary (punitive) damages is due in April 2017. It is believed that a second case is about to start soon in the same jurisdiction.
Another ignition source for IED 6 is the current deployment of affordable, small, portable, self-calibrating, full frequency spectrum, 24/7 sound meters by residents living near wind projects. These will show which turbine (or turbines) is producing pressure pulses that are entering homes and which elements of that intruding sound is causing human impacts.
It is not hard to conclude that the road ahead for the Australian wind industry will be closed by these further roadside explosive devices.
Seemingly much time has been wasted trying to get the attention of several of the major Australian players in this industry. Maybe some of that work, now encapsulated in the devices in waiting, will bring about change. Most of that work has been carefully documented.
So within the faults inherent in the present technology and the choice of locations, the industry is certain to wither. The availability of data from landholder-owned automatic instruments is a real threat to industry claims of ‘no harm’ and will effectively blow away the irrelevant and incompetent noise guidelines.
The first five IEDs are industry-wide problems. The industry will fight them through proxies, as they have always done. But it will be like King Canute trying to hold the tide. The wind is industry knows this. Pacific Hydro has been acquired by overseas interests. Origin and AGL are sellers of some or all of their permits and projects. Origin took, and took early, the additional step of leaving the Clean Energy Council. Others should be considering following that course.