Limits To Wind – An Existence Proof in China

Among the very strongest of all proofs of something is what is called an “existence proof”. Someone says “There is no such thing as a black swan” and you show them one from Australia. End of argument.

Now China has been all hell bent for leather on building wind farms, rather like all sorts of other Top Down Socialist Command And Control Countries (i.e. Germany and the UK and increasingly the EU in general) and the result? They hit a capacity wall of mismatch between the non-dispatchable and highly erratic wind power supply and the fairly predictable daily cycle of life and energy demand.

Power Engineers know about this. They warned about it. They pleaded not to go there. The Political Class said, in essence, “Tosh old boy, I need my ‘contributions’…” as in the con is on and the tribute goes to their bank account…

Bold bits done by me…

China Stops Building Wind Turbines Because Most Of The Energy Is Wasted

Energy and Environmental Reporter
4:00 PM 03/29/2016

The government stopped approving new wind power projects in the country’s windiest regions earlier this month, according to a China’s National Energy Administration statement. These regions previously installed nearly 71 gigawatts of wind turbines, more than the rest of China combined. A single gigawatt of electricity is enough to power 700,000 homes. Government statistics show that 33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind-power, or about 15 percent of all Chinese wind power, was wasted in 2015 alone.

“Even though China will not approve new projects, the scale of existing wind power installations is huge, leaving the grid struggling to cope with it,” Xie Guohui, an analyst at a Chinese think tank, told the environmental blog InsideClimate News Monday. “In the best-case scenario, this policy will help China’s wind power curtailment maintain the same level as it was last year.”

The amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is very intermittent and doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed. This poses an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grids vastly more fragile.

“The United States should learn from these incredibly expensive mistakes. Instead, Obama’s EPA plows ahead with regulations that will duplicate the worst outcomes—skyrocketing electric prices together with unpredictable interruptions in supply.”

In America, merely building a 3,000-mile network of transmission lines capable of moving power from wind-rich West Texas to market in East Texas was a $6.8 billion effort that began in 2008 and still isn’t entirely finished. Demand for electricity in China has grown much slower than expected due to the country’s general economic slowdown.

Interesting to note that here is independent confirmation of a China slowdown. No economic growth, no electricity growth. And I’d assert, no electricity or too expensive electricity and no economic growth…

Beijing has ordered wind operators to stop expanding four times in the last five years because unreliable wind power was damaging the country’s power grid and costing the government enormous amounts of money. The best areas for wind turbines in China are far away from the coastal provinces where most of its population lives, and building the infrastructure to transmit wind energy over long distances is enormously expensive and could cost many times the price of generating the electricity.

“We’ve known for a long time that levelized cost comparisons understate the cost of wind and solar because such estimates don’t take into account the cost of building new transmission from remote wind-rich generation sites to population centers,” Marlo Lewis, an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But now we find another cost should be included when new transmission lines aren’t built: the wasted power that can’t be delivered.”

China has spent enormous amounts of money on the country’s wind industry. China spent more than $80 billion building new green energy in 2014 alone, while the US spent a “mere” $34 billion. Despite the freeze on new wind-farms, the Chinese government still plans to get 15 percent of the country’s electricity from green energy by 2020.

“Gigantic misallocations of capital have been endemic in all aspects of China’s economic buildup. Look at the brand new cities that are empty,” Ebell continued. “Now that China’s boom has cooled down and they don’t have as many trillions of dollars of spare cash, they are not going to be able to invest in everything, but will have to make choices based on profit and loss. Wind and solar power are obviously two of the sectors where investment will be scaled down dramatically.”

So they are still under 15% of supply and already have significant misallocations, instability, and are dumping power during peak times. IMHO that’s something of an existence proof that wind ain’t gonna cut it over 15% of supply. Solar has a better time of it, as most power is demanded during daylight, but for places north of Arizona, the winter cycle is going to make solar pretty much a seasonal supplier. Not much use in London in December during a dark stormy night… or day for that matter.

IMHO, as a first order SWAG, I’d say 30% renewables and you will be dramatically suffering pretty much all the time, and outright crashing the grid in others. Winter / night blackouts, and windy day instability crashes. China seems to already be there in those provinces, and Germany is pissing off Poland so much they’ve put power liming systems in place to avoid the wind surges…

UK is likely to get there very soon. Though not from adding so much wind as from shutting down all their most reliable and dispatchable power (coal, nuclear). When you are running on the edge, any instability can become a critical crashing grid instability…

Oh Well. Get your inverters, battery boxes, and generators now…

Oh, and maybe lay in a camp stove or BBQ or DIY emergency stove kit to reduce total electricity needed and / or actually cook dinner if you have an All Electric Kitchen:

Yeah, yeah, I know. Many folks already have a BBQ (briquettes or propane) and / or the kitchen stove is gas anyway. Fine. But not all folks are so equipped. FWIW, I carry the “minimal” power kit and a Trangia (or similar) stove in the car whenever I’m “On The Road”. This started as “Quake Preparation”, but I found it so useful I do it now for all sorts of reasons. On one occasion, the minimal lighting kit let me spend many long hours by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere trying to get my car to start (which it didn’t) and then waiting for the tow truck (reading a nice book…). It is also handy when packing the car, unloading it, camping, just stopped in a rest area trying to find something, etc. etc. I also travel with an electric “hot pot” or “hot plate” for making beverages and soup in hotel rooms, but have sometime used the Trangia with no problems.

Once you get used to having them around, it’s hard to imagine life without them.

During may years of Governor Grey “out” Davis in California, I got used to brown outs and black outs (it’s a Democratic thing, apparently, since after our first only ever Governor Recall, the Republican had electricity back to stable in no time and we’ve had zero issues since…). During that time, I had surplus computer “UPS” gear in several rooms. Lead acid battery built in. Power would go out but the basic lighting and TV / Satellite stayed up.

We’d know power was out via the “chirping” of the UPSs. I’d give it about 15 minutes, and then lay the drop cord from the generator on the patio into the pre-laid drop cord in the living room and down the hall to the bedroom. Start the generator. Move the UPS cable to the drop cord, plug in the fridge on its own cable, and “good to go” for about 8 hours… All up, would take me about 4 minutes to start the generator and unroll the cords…

As this looks to be The Future Dream of all good Democrats, Social-Liberals, Progressives, and Socialists world wide, I suggest preparing now… Or elect a Republican, Conservative, Classical-Liberal (Libertarian in the USA), etc.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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6 Responses to Limits To Wind – An Existence Proof in China

  1. gallopingcamel says:

    In spite of the well documented problems of wind and solar the US government is burying its head in the sand.

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    The only way to mitigate this problem (and it would only be a partial mitigation) would be to channel some of that surplus power to uses which tolerate intermittent load. There are a few applications like pumped water storage that don’t have to run on a specific schedule. Holland uses it to pump water to reclaim land. Long term who cares when it gets done as long as it gets done.

    Even with that, you have limits on how fast you can turn it on or off but it would help make constructive use for some of the wasted power. Here in the west, on the high plains, we have those things popping up like dandelions. In high wind conditions when they should make the most power, they often have to have the rotors feathered because they have rotor limits that can’t be exceeded. Like lots of other “good ideas” that sounded good at the time, the true believers will not concede that they didn’t have a clue until it costs the rest of us a lot of money. Even then, they will say it was because the technology was not ready or it wasn’t adopted properly or find some other excuse instead of accepting responsibility for pissing a few trillion dollars down a hole. Meanwhile the investors who got in on the ground floor of the build out will laugh all the way to the bank, and like all ponzi schemes the late investors will be left holding the proverbial bag.

  3. Pingback: Limits To Wind – An Existence Proof in China | Climate Collections

  4. This is an interesting storage system for storing intermittent electrical loads:

    Click to access maps-dec10.pdf

    It uses a maglev loop with a several thousand foot elevation gains. Surplus energy is used to transport 100 ton concrete blocks to the top of the loop, where they are stored. When energy is needed, blocks are shunted back down the loop, where they run in generator mode and transfer the stored potential energy back into electricity.

    Perhaps the Chinese are crazy enough to try it….

  5. Julian Jones says:

    As Larry Ledwick mentions above, pump-storage offers some useful balancing of renewables variability, of course at some further loss of efficiency. BUT here in flood-mismanaged UK such measures dispersed in our wet & hilly Western regions could (owing to their typical 50% attenuation capacity) offer a means to also control our flooding; the most recent of which cost £5,000 million …

    Such flood costs every few years soon add up … I have done some scoping studies; in one 14.5 sq km catchment a dispersed pump-stored capacity of 40MWh, in a bigger 160 sq km catchment, 1.6 GWh capacity. Very adequate for the resident population and a safer investment than any pension entrusted to the City of London.

    As this blog has explained better than most, climate change is poorly understood, as much as anything the economic considerations of our energy supplies. Had our Victorian forebears stuck with wind & water power and developed this to its maximum thus, we would have been living in a very low cost energy world now.

    The economic & employment prospects of renewables are being better understood in UK now – the findings here (pages 15 & 16 make the wider benefits of renewables a no-brainer.

    We really don’t need Rossi & co., though the exotic energy techs promised would be nice too.

  6. Ian W says:

    The UK government has nationalized your generator idea. They are aware that the National Grid will fail in the next severe winter. So they have laid in fields of standby generators, a system they have called the Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) . Rather like your home generator kit these can be brought online rapidly, and together with agreement from industry to switch off heavy use systems where possible blackouts may be postponed for ….well about 8 hours. After that of course a lot of diesel fuel will be needed to be transported to the fields of generators and that may be tricky if there is a lot of snow. But politicians unlike engineers, tend not to think that far ahead. Meanwhile the populace will come up with alternate uses for blacked out lamp posts.

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