S – Case Study on Methods of Industrial-scale Wind Power Analysis

A great deal has been published about the characteristics of industrial-scale wind power, covering a range of points of view. This paper is a case study of some of the approaches and considerations that can be used in the analysis of such papers.

The subject of this case study is a recently published paper by Charles Komanoff[1] who takes the wind proponent view. In general Komanoff:

At the beginning Komanoff quotes what he wrote a few years ago in a magazine article:

“[S]ince wind is variable, individual wind turbines can’t be counted on to produce on demand, so the power grid can’t necessarily retire fossil fuel generators at the same rate as it takes on windmills. The coal- and oil-fired generators will still need to be there, waiting for a windless day. But when the wind blows, those generators can spin down.”

The underlying assumption, which appears to be the basis for most of the following arguments, is that when the wind blows it does so steadily, and when it ceases it remains so for long periods. Unfortunately it does not, and this is at the heart of the issue, which can be summarized as follows:

Wind output volatility is a major factor in the discussion about the effect on the wind mirroring/shadowing backup plant. Even on days of moderate wind, significant, random variations in wind output occur, but the variations are most violent during high wind periods. Because the conventional plants have to mirror wind’s volatility, different plant types are required (e.g. increased use of OCGT plants, which are more responsive but less efficient than CCGT plants) and those involved are forced to operate at a lower level of average production, increasing their costs per megawatt-hour (MWh). As they are being used in a more inefficient mode than normal operations, they consume more fossil fuel and produce more CO2 emissions per MWh. This is like a car in continuous stop/start speed-up/slow-down city traffic as opposed to steady highway driving. This mode of operation can totally offset any reductions claimed in fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions as a result of the presence of wind.

Assertions made in this paper will undoubtedly be challenged and this is appropriate. The purpose is not to declare a winner but to illuminate the necessary considerations.


[1] Komanoff, Charles, Wind Power’s Displacement of Fossil Fuels, April 2009, http://www.komanoff.net/wind_power/Wind_Power%27s_Displacement_of_Fossil_Fuels.pdf

Click here to see the complete document

Last updated August 22, 2009 (editorial changes in Denmark section)

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1 Comment »

  1. Randy said

    The amount of Wind Energy produced in Ontario likely is the same as the amount that we pay our U.S. neighbours to remove the excess energy from our grid….Where I live the Wind Turbines only work at nite and weekends….and never during an actual heatwave…It appears that we pay outrageous amounts for energy that we can’t even use….Once to the Wind Welfare Companies and once to our U.S. neighbours…

    Forget Green Energy – It’s FAKE..

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