Monumental Fail: Why Wind & Solar Have No Hope of Ever Delivering Meaningful Power
Power that can’t be delivered as and when it’s needed, is as useful as a chocolate teapot. Power consumers really only get to understand the ‘value’ of wind and solar when the sun sets and/or calm weather sets in: that is to say – “worthless”.
Power that cannot be delivered on demand has no market value, whatsoever. The only reason we’re talking about wind or solar is because of the subsidies that pathetic pair attract.
The idea that one or other presents a competitive threat to dispatchable sources such as coal, gas or nuclear is patent nonsense.
For the uninitiated, it’s a hard ‘numbers thing’ – as Roger Caiazza explains below.
Sorry, But Those Wind and Solar Numbers Just Don’t Add Up
Natural Gas Now
6 August 2021
[Editor’s Note: Wind and solar numbers just don’t add up at all when it comes to replacing the electricity generated by Indian Point nuclear energy station for New Yorkers.]
This is a condensed version of an article published at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York. That article describes how all the numbers were derived.
So as to determine the feasibility of two targets in New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) I looked at annual energy use data primarily from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Patterns and Trends – New York State Energy Profiles: 2003-2017 (“Patterns and Trends”) document. The two targets considered are: 70 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040.
I have written extensively on the implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed are not feasible with present technology, will adversely affect affordability and reliability, that wind and solar deployment will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and, at the end of the day, meeting the targets cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
New York State Electric Generation by Fuel Type 2003–2017 (Source: Patterns and Trends)
For anyone interested in New York energy information the Patterns and Trends documents are a great resource. One thing that I particularly like is that when you click on a table there is a link to a spreadsheet with all the data. For space reasons the report does not list all the numbers but the underlying spreadsheet includes everything. The latest report available, Patterns and Trends – New York State Energy Profiles: 2003-2017 (“Patterns and Trends”) publication date was March 2021, some 38 months after the end of 2017.
In my first article, I explained that Patterns and Trends data showed that in 2017 some 30% of the electricity generated in the state came from fossil fuels and that nuclear provided 32%. In 2017, hydro provided 18%, municipal solid waste, biomass and geothermal provided 2%, solar had yet to show any significant generation and wind provided 3%. The CLCPA defines renewable energy sources as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro and nuclear so recent trends in those sources are important to determine feasibility of the 2030 goal.
New York Historical Energy Source Calculations
Figure 1 lists the percentage trend of the sources of electric generation in New York State (NYS) from 2001 to 2022. Because the Patterns and Trends report only goes to 2017 I had to use data from other sources. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) documentation of load and capacity report was used to get historical data to 2020 for most categories but EPA Clean Air Markets Division data was used for fossil emissions. For the 2021 and 2022 projections I used historical average data or, in the case of renewables, made other assumptions.
In order to determine the feasibility of the 70% renewable by 2030 target these data list four source categories: fossil fuels, imports, nuclear and all the other categories lumped together as CLCPA renewables. I broke out nuclear to show the impact of the retirement of Indian Point nuclear station. The CLCPA renewables categories includes biomass and municipal waste generation that I think may not be acceptable as CLCPA renewable at the end of the day but for now they are included.
Current New York Energy Sources
Figure 1 lists the percentage trend of the sources of electric generation in New York State (NYS) from 2001 to 2022. In 2001, nuclear provided 28% of the energy and other CLCPA renewable sources another 16% for a total of 44%. Fossil fuels provided over half the energy and imported energy made up the remaining 5%. In 2020, nuclear provided 30%, down from the high of 32%, other CLCPA renewable sources provided 24% for a total of 54% of CLCPA renewable energy, fossil was down to 32%, and imports up to 15%. I project that in 2022, the retirement of Indian Point will reduce nuclear down to 21% and that other CLCPA renewable sources will increase to 30% for a total of 51% of CLCPA renewable energy. The assumption that fossil fuel use will decrease reduces its share to 29%, but increases imports to 20%.
I changed the methodology for the projections to use energy used expressed as GWhr instead of TBu to compare different sources. I based my projections on the feasibility of meeting the 2030 load requirements for wind and solar on the following assumptions. I assumed that the electricity provided by imports, hydro, geothermal, biomass and municipal waste generation all equal the average of the Patterns and Trends data for 2015 to 2017. Nuclear generation was also set at the 2015 to 2017 average but I subtraced out the Indian Point nuclear station energy. I calculated the annual reductions needed between 2020 and 2040 to meet the zero fossil fuel emissions target and used the 2030 value. Using those assumptions that means that wind and solar generation have to meet the difference between the sum of those categories and the total load projected by NYISO or 37,256 GWhr.
In addition to the emission reduction targets, there are two CLCPA targets for renewable development. In 2025 the target is 6,000 MW of solar and by 2035 there is a target for 9,000 MW of off-shore wind. I adapted those targets to come up with low, medium, and high renewable deployment scenarios. For utility solar by 2030 I assumed three scenarios for solar deployment up to 6,000 MW. For 2030 offshore wind I assumed three scenarios: all 9,000 MW in 2030, only the current 4,300 MW under development and a third scenario midway between those two. For on-shore wind I assumed total capacity would be 1,.5, 2, and 2.5 times the current capacity. This gives a low, medium and high range of potential wind and solar deployment.
Table 1 lists the capacity (MW), capacity factors, and projected energy (GWhr) from all the scenarios and four total scenario projections. Scenario 1 uses the low end estimates for all sources and has a deficit of 11,736 GWhr. Scenario 2 uses the mid-point estimates for all sources and has a 1,735 GWhr surplus. If al the estimates are at the high end in Scenario 3 there is a surplus of 15,205 GWhr. My personal best guess (Scenario 4) is mid point for utility solar and on-shore wind but the low estimate for off-shore wind because the entire infrastructure to develop off-shore wind has to be built first. That scenario has a deficit of 6,500 GWhr.
I believe that a major problem with meeting the 2030 target is that permitting and construction will slow the deployment of solar and on-shore wind. I reviewed wind and solar project applications for New York’s Article 10 permitting process to get an idea of the magnitude of development for the bracketing scenarios . Based on the solar applications between 19,000 and 56,000 acres and between 6 and 18 million solar panels will be needed for the solar scenarios.
The wind applications suggest that between 15 and 25 projects with 60 turbines at each site and that between 900 and 1,500 3.3 MW turbines will be needed for the on-shore wind scenarios. The off-shore wind project information is too scanty at this point to develop similar information but the infrastructure needed to build off-shore wind also has to be developed before construction can commence. This many projects with such extensive scopes inevitably fail to meet schedules.
While the results shown suggest that meeting the 2030 target can be met in two out of four scenarios there is a big issue with the approach used. Replacing fossil and Indian Point annual energy output with intermittent wind and solar energy output is not a one for one energy substitution. While a wind turbine can provide a certain amount of energy during a year, it is not dispatchable. Because the total annual load is based on the sum of varying loads over hours, days and seasons, much more intermittent wind and solar capacity is needed to replace the dispatchable capacity that produced historical energy and maintain a reliable system that provides electricity whenever and wherever it is needed.
The real test of feasibility is to determine the amount of solar and wind necessary to meet the worst case situation – a wintertime wind lull when both wind and solar generate minimal levels of power. Therefore, do not believe any claims for feasibility that are based only on annual energy output.
Despite the supposed urgency of reducing fossil fuel emissions, the Cuomo Administration shut down Indian Point nuclear station which generated about 12% of the total energy used to produce electricity in the state. In order to replace that energy four times as much wind capacity as currently exists has to be developed or all of the off-shore wind currently under development has to be dedicated for replacement. Until such time as the renewable resources to replace the lost nuclear are developed, fossil fueled energy or imported energy has to pick up the necessary load.
In this projection it was assumed that imported energy picked up the load but it is likely that fossil will replace much of the load because of transmission constraints to New York City and Long Island. At the end of the day this illustrates one hypocritical aspect of the CLCPA and New York energy policy. The CLCPA includes nuclear generation in the definition of acceptable “renewable” sources of electricity. The CLCPA is supposed to protect New Yorkers from the existential threat of climate change but New York energy policy retired nearly 2,000 MW of acceptable renewable power when Indian Point was retired. If the threat of climate change is so pressing how can that be justified?
Natural Gas Now