Saturday, May 16, 2015

California Wind In A Heap Of Trouble For Anyone Paying Attention -- May 16, 2015

[A huge "thank you" to a reader for sending me this link; this is an incredible story.]

Regular readers know that I feel very strongly that wind farms have no redeeming features. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch.

Second, only through blogging did I learn what nameplate capacity means.

Finally (well, maybe not finally, but enough for now), long term readers know that I feel strongly that wind farms are a huge scam.

Now we get this report from Platts regarding wind energy in California:
Wholesale power sales from wind generators in California in the first quarter of this year fell an eye-opening 32.7% compared to sales in the first quarter of 2014.
Forty-eight wind farms in California sold 1.304 million MWh of wind power in the California Independent System Operator market in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 1.936 million MWh sold in Q1 2014, according to data filed with FERC and other government agencies and compiled by Platts.
The roughly 630,000 MWh sales decline came despite a 197-MW increase in available wind capacity during the year. Capacity grew from 4,275 MW to 4,472 MW by the first quarter of 2015.
The state’s wind generators thus operated at a capacity factor of just 13.5% in the first quarter of 2015, a significant drop from the 21% capacity factor at which they operated in the first quarter of 2014.
The FERC wholesale wind power sales data shows that 42 out of 44 wind farms in California that had sales in the first quarter of 2014 have seen their Q1 2015 sales decline. There were four facilities that had no sales in Q4 2014.
One of the biggest declines has come at Pattern Energy’s 265-MW Ocotillo wind farm in the Imperial Valley, in the state’s most southern region. Ocotillo, which sells power to San Diego Gas & Electric, saw its sales fall 45.5% in the first quarter of this year over the first quarter of last.
So, let's parse this:
  • consultants usually provide the information their client wants to hear
  • there has been no global warming for 19 years; that's agreed by all
  • regardless of whatever global warming there might have been, it would not have been enough to affect the winds; any change in winds was due to "contemporary factors" such as the El NiƱo effect
  • developers over-promise nameplate capacity; wind energy (and solar energy) never comes close to nameplate capacity
Bottom line: if there's a significant decrease in wind energy in California, there needs to be another explanation than global warming changing the wind patterns in California.

So, going back to the story linked above.

If wind energy is a scam (wind farms for tax breaks) what could possibly explain the significant decline in wind energy knowing that trying to explain it with global warming is beyond "ridiculous."

Think about it. See if you can come up with a reason why wind energy in California has dropped off so much.


You are absolutely correct. If the developers got their money out of the farms already through tax credits, etc., not much reason to worry about preventive maintenance. My hunch is that lack of preventive maintenance is causing the significant decrease in energy provided by the wind farms.

[After the original post, a reader sent this, confirming what was already surmised:
Studies of UK and Denmark wind farms suggest their actual economic lives appear to be 12-15 years due to wear and tear. One of the unanticipated problems that arose with larger turbines is premature cracking failure of the main axial bearing(s). These failures arise from two very difficult engineering conditions. First is uneven loading. Wind speeds increase with altitude so the three blades, which span great distances, are never evenly loaded. The bearing(s) wobble under the tremendous forces generated. Second, braking when wind speed exceeds 25mph suddenly loads reverse torque on the axial side where previously unloaded (and wobbling) individual bearings are in natural misalignment to their trace. If things go ‘well’, cracking can be caught before catastrophic failure. It is expensive to repair. The blades must be detached so the turbine can be dismounted and sent back to the factory. 
Developers and promoters of wind farms, of course, base their economic projections on 30-year wind turbine lives.]

The consultants are a whole lot smarter than I am but they have clients to serve, vested interests as it were, and to blame prevailing winds on global warming is simply preposterous.

But even worse, if it is due to global warming, and global warming is already affecting wind patterns, it means that wind farm developers need to re-do all those wind studies before building more wind farms.

On top of all this, it makes the story at this link even more troubling. Wind energy is not going to be make up the hydroelectric power shortage due to California's drought.

Wind Turbine Life Spans

More on the subject of wind turbine life spans, and this was reported back in 2012:
Scotland's landscape could be blighted by the rotting remains of a failed regeneration of wind farms.
A study commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation has found that the economic life of onshore wind turbines could be far less than that predicted by the industry.
The “groundbreaking” research was carried out by academics at Edinburgh University and saw them look at years of wind farm performance data from the UK and Denmark.
The results appear to show that the output from windfarms — allowing for variations in wind speed and site characteristics — declines substantially as they get older.
By 10 years of age, the report found that the contribution of an average UK windfarm towards meeting electricity demand had declined by a third.
That reduction in performance leads the study team to believe that it will be uneconomic to operate windf arms for more than 12 to 15 years — at odds with industry predictions of a 20- to 25-year lifespan.
I think that's exactly what we will see in the US in 2020; I already saw it among the wind farms around Indio, California.

Wind Farm Pricing

National Review is reporting:
Evidence from market data suggests that wind power producers will accept prices down to about negative $35 MWh before they shut down, since marginal operating costs are very low for wind power we can conclude that the subsidies are worth about $35 – $40 for each MWh of wind output. 
Subsidies do this sort of thing – distort the market and lead to waste – and of course to some degree distorting the market is just what is intended when policymakers offer a subsidy. Only usually it isn’t so easy to see the evidence of the waste created by the subsidies. Wind turbines that operate more hours require more maintenance, so these hours spent producing negative-value electric power do consume real resources. At the same time, the conventionally-fueled generation that is forced offline temporarily will also face additional “wear-and-tear” and require additional maintenance because of the effects of shutting down and then restarting the machines. This extra wear-and-tear and extra maintenance also represents wasteful use of resources due to PTC- and REC-subsidized power production. 

Taxpayers Pay Wind Farms Not To Produce Electricity

Fox News is reporting:
Wind farms in the Pacific Northwest -- built with government subsidies and maintained with tax credits for every megawatt produced -- are now getting paid to shut down as the federal agency charged with managing the region's electricity grid says there's an oversupply of renewable power at certain times of the year.
The problem arose during the late spring and early summer last year. Rapid snow melt filled the Columbia River Basin. The water rushed through the 31 dams run by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency based in Portland, Ore., allowing for peak hydropower generation. At the very same time, the wind howled, leading to maximum wind power production.
Demand could not keep up with supply, so BPA shut down the wind farms for nearly 200 hours over 38 days.
 The one place wind farms were probably most redundant: the Pacific Northwest where there was already an abundance of hydroelectric power.


  1. So easy to fix this - make law reflect tax breaks for electricity produced instead of equipment produced. Then it's not just GE that benefits but all of us. That way it's not like the birds died for nothing. ;-)

    1. Well said...."tax breaks for electricity produced...." but even better, so that "birds don't die for nothing." Big smile.