DeepResource

Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Prejudices From Amateurs Against Wind Energy

[source]

A self-described energy-skeptic & doomer named Alice, who believes that oil can’t be replaced by renewable energy, took the trouble of formulating 41 bold assertions (therefor below in bold), explaining why this would be the case. Every assertion is accompanied by our rebuttals. Judging by the date of the oldest comment, the original blog post was probably written in 2011. A lot has happened since on the wind energy front.

Sneak preview: oil can very well be replaced by 100% renewable energy.

[energyskeptic.com] – 41 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

1. Windmills require petroleum every single step of their life cycle. If they can’t replicate themselves using wind turbine generated electricity, they are not sustainable

Chicken-and-egg story. While it is true that in the initial phase of the energy transition, new wind turbines are by necessity build using fossil fuel, there is no reason why the job can’t be done with energy from wind turbines. In fact, already today most scrap metal is being processed in so-called electric arc furnaces, that run on electricity and thus could be powered by renewable electricity. Furthermore, in a drive to bring down CO2-emission, the Swedish government, among others, is funding efforts to develop steel production without fossil fuels. But even if this would fail, the world gets ever more saturated with iron that can be recycled indefinitely in electric arc furnaces, with ever lower demand for fossil fuel.

2. SCALE. Too many windmills needed to replace fossil fuels

Is that so? Example: EU average power consumption 300 GW. Meanwhile 8 MW turbines are deployed offshore, 12 MW machines are being developed as we speak. No reason why we won’t achieve 15 MW eventually. 15 MW, that would be 300,000 / 15 = 20,000 wind turbines of 15 MW. A modern offshore wind turbine installation ship can install 1 monopile per day. The EU has given itself time until 2050 to get the energy transition done. That would 32 x 365 days = 11,680 days. In other words, you only need two ships like the Aeolus to get the job done. Calculate a capacity factor of 65% for very large offshore wind-turbines to see that three ships would suffice.

In fact, Europe has many more ships than three to get the transition job done in time.

3. SCALE. Wind turbines can’t be scaled up fast enough to replace fossils

Yeah, yeah, that’s a very 2011-ish opinion, when large numbers of people, including us, took oil-amateurs like Richard Heinberg and their peak-oil-is-now serious. We no longer do.

[deepresource] – The Sudden Death of Peak Oil – 4.5 Trillion Barrels of Oil Left
[deepresource] – Enormous Coal Reserves Found Under the North Sea
[deepresource] – North Sea UCG
[theguardian.com] – We were wrong on peak oil. There’s enough to fry us all

4. Not enough rare earth metals and enormous amounts of cement, steel, and other materials required

Ridiculous assertion. Iron ore is virtually unlimited. On top of that, iron mining will become superfluous on the moment world population will peak. Already a large part of the world’s iron production comes from recycling scrap metal. As a bonus it takes 10 times less energy to produce steel from scrap metal as from from iron ore. And yet another very important bonus: recycling scrap metal is done in an electric arc furnace. Cement? Offshore wind monopiles are rammed into the sea floor bed, no need for (large amount of) cement.

For the rest:

[renewableenergyworld.com] – Don’t Worry About Rare Earths
[cleantechnica.com] – Renewable Energy Is Made From Available Resources

5. Not enough dispatchable power to balance wind intermittency and unreliability

Now here is an interesting point indeed. Yes, in order to combat intermittency and “unreliability” (smeared out over 4 seasons, sun and wind are reliable enough), storage is an absolute necessity. Solar panels and wind turbines have meanwhile matured to the point that both are the cheapest way to generate a kWh of electricity. But storage is still in its infancy. Batteries and pumped hydro are almost certain to mature as well, but they can only operate in the hours-range, like during the evening. For longer duration, we need different storage means. Several candidates exist: hydrogen, methanol, metal powders, ammonia, seasonal storage of heat, see links below:

[deepresource] – Blueprint 100% Renewable Energy Base for Germany
[deepresource] – How Much Storage is Needed?
[deepresource] – High Temperature Electrolysis
[deepresource] – Battery Storage Cost < $50/kWh by 2025
[deepresource] – 700 MW Renewable Hydrogen Plant to be Built in France
[deepresource] – Ammonia (NH3) as Storage Medium for Renewable Energy
[deepresource] – Cost Hydrogen From Renewable Energy
[deepresource] – The Methanol Economy With George Olah
[deepresource] – Elestor Builds Large-Scale Hydrogen-Bromine Battery
[sciencedirect.com] – Recyclable metal fuels for clean and compact zero-carbon power
[deepresource] – Ecovat Seasonal Heat Storage

In the end, one or more storage technologies will prevail.

6. Wind blows seasonally, so for much of there year there wouldn’t be enough wind

Interesting is that the current most important area for renewable energy, that is NW-Europe and the North Sea, wind and solar largely even each other out over the seasons: much wind in the Winter and much solar in the Summer. But there is no doubt, storage is necessary. A few rules of thumb regarding storage of renewable electricity: below 40% renewable electricity penetration you do not need to worry about storage at all. Below 55% penetration, 8 hours backup from storage suffice (can be done with batteries and pumped hydro). If however, you go for the gold, that is a 100% renewable energy society, so not just electricity but also space heating and transport sourced from renewables, you first need to double your current electricity output (with solar, wind, biomass, hydro, etc.), next you need to replace all your fossil fuel based heating equipment with electric heat pumps, next you need to thoroughly insulate your houses to the tune that you need 2/3 less energy for heating and finally you need ca. 40% storage capacity of your annual renewable electricity production. It is quite a task, but it can be done.

7. When too much wind is blowing for the grid to handle, it has to be curtailed and/or drives electricity prices to zero, driving natural gas, coal, and nuclear power plants out of business

Yep, a problem that will be solved once we have storage in place.

8. The best wind areas will never be developed

Is that so? Would you care to elaborate on which “best wind areas” you are thinking about?

[deepresource] – Gold Mine North Sea
[deepresource] – Tenders Windpark Hollandse Kust Zuid I-IV 1460 MW
[deepresource] – Tenders Windpark IJmuiden Ver
[deepresource] – 1484 MW Borssele to Become the Largest Windfarm in the World

9. The Grid Can’t Handle Wind Power without natural gas, which is finite

Only amateurs would make statements like that. It is completely irrelevant if electricity is fed into the grid by a rotating axis from a conventional large turbine in a conventional power station, or from rotating wind turbines axes, or new style power stations operation on hydrogen, ammonia, methanol or whatever.

[deepresource] – The Netherlands is Placing its Bets on the Hydrogen Econom

10. The role of the grid is to keep the supply of power steady and predictable. Wind does the opposite, at some point of penetration it may become impossible to keep the grid from crashing.

Correct, if you leave storage out of the equation. But there is no reason to do so. Next.

11. The grid blacks out when the supply of power varies too much. Eventually too much wind penetration will crash the grid.

Same answer as #10.

12. Windmills wouldn’t be built without huge subsidies and tax breaks

That may have been true in 2011, but that is no longer the case. The latest North Sea wind park tenders were completed without governments having to pay a single dime. Offshore developers, backed by money from an eager financial industry, are lining up for the privilege to build offshore wind farms and bring renewable kWh’s onshore, knowing very well that they are backed by the Paris Climate Change Accords, that will increasingly phase out competing fossil fuel. Renewable energy can only win.

[renewablesnow.com] – Netherlands sets March deadline for 2nd no-subsidy offshore wind tender

13. Tremendous environmental damage from mining material for windmills

“Trememdous”? Care to elaborate? Of course not. Again, offshore wind turbines consist for 99% or more of steel, that eventually is completely recyclable.

14. Not enough time to scale wind up

Again, a very 2011-ish remark, made by someone who at the time still believed in “peak oil now”. Perhaps she still believes in it. In reality peak oil supply is no longer relevant, expect peak oil demand by 2025-2030.

15. The best wind is too high or remote to capture

Often “the best” is the enemy of the “good enough”. Offshore wind turbines in the North Sea with average wind speeds of 10 m/s is fine at axis height of 100 m. No need to build wind turbines into the jet stream, the rotor blades probably would come off anyway.

[deepresource] – Gold Mine North Sea

16. Too many turbines could affect Earth’s climate negatively

The North Sea, Irish Sea and Baltic alone are more than sufficient to produce the current average 300 GW electricity the EU is consuming. We doubt that 100 thousand large wind turbines would influence climate, where mountains and hills have a far bigger impact on wind currents. You are really keen on keeping your doomer world view alive, right?

[deepresource] – The Enormous Energy Potential of the North Sea

17. Wide-scale US wind power could cause significant global warming. A Harvard study raises questions about just how much wind should be part of a climate solution. Less wind can be
captured than thought (see Max Planck Society)

Baloney, see #16. Everybody can “raise questions”. Remember though that a renewable energy base will replace all fossil fuel, that friend and foe admits to warm up the atmosphere.

18. Wind is only strong enough to justify windmills in a few regions

Wrong.

– The North Sea, Irish Sea and Baltic suffice for Europe.
– Continental US has more than enough, considering it has a less dense population.
– Mongolia alone can provide for entire China
– Africa, Arabia, Australia have predictable sunshine and don’t need wind.

19. The electric grid needs to be much larger than it is now

Yes. There are no laws of physics that would prevent that from happening. Roads are worldwide much longer and wider than they were 100 years ago. Won’t be different with the grid.

20. Wind blows the strongest when customer demand is the weakest

Not true, but even if it is, it will be solved with storage.

21. No utility scale energy storage in sight

Not in 2011, but times have changed. For storage possibilities, again these links:

[deepresource] – Blueprint 100% Renewable Energy Base for Germany
[deepresource] – How Much Storage is Needed?
[deepresource] – High Temperature Electrolysis
[deepresource] – Battery Storage Cost < $50/kWh by 2025
[deepresource] – 700 MW Renewable Hydrogen Plant to be Built in France
[deepresource] – Ammonia (NH3) as Storage Medium for Renewable Energy
[deepresource] – Cost Hydrogen From Renewable Energy
[deepresource] – The Methanol Economy With George Olah
[deepresource] – Elestor Builds Large-Scale Hydrogen-Bromine Battery
[sciencedirect.com] – Recyclable metal fuels for clean and compact zero-carbon power

22. Wind Power surges harm industrial customers

??? You mean to say that the wind power industry hurts the interests of the fossil fuel industry? That would be true, but hey, nothing has eternal life. Life is the never ending tale of people, companies, countries getting born, live and die.

23. Energy returned on Energy Invested is negative

Complete utter BS.

[deepresource] – EROI of Offshore Wind
[deepresource] – EROI of Offshore Wind Power [Continued]
[deepresource] – Charles Hall on EROI
[deepresource] – Energy Problems? What Energy Problems?
[deepresource] – Solar EROI

24. Windmills take up too much space

Yeah right. All these poor whales complaining that 2/3 of the world’s surface is not good enough, they want the entire North Sea for themselves as well. Not going to happen.

25. Wind Turbines break down too often

Do you have any facts to back that claim up? What do you mean “break down”? Lull in wind or rotor blades breaking off? Regarding “lack of wind”:

[deepresource] – Offshore Wind Capacity Factors
The capacity factor of large North Sea wind turbines has a very good 65%, that’s excellent!

26. Large-scale wind energy slows down winds and reduces turbine efficiencies

This is probably true qualitatively, but needs to be quantified to judge if this effect is meaningful. It cannot be totally excluded that building, say, 100,000 large wind turbines in the North Sea, will reduce the electricity harvest per turbine.

[deepresource] – Wind Shadow Impact

On a world scale, renewable energy extraction is very likely to have minimal, neglectable effects on the overall climate and weather picture. An area of the size of Spain is sufficient to harvest renewable energy for the entire planet against current consumption patterns.

[windeurope.org] – Unleashing Europe’s offshore wind potential
The potential for offshore wind in Europe is enormous, no reference to excessive negative effects of wind shadow.

27. Offshore Wind Farms likely to be destroyed by Hurricanes

Perhaps, but in Europe we don’t have those. And the potential for offshore wind for the US is limited. Fortunately, the US doesn’t need offshore, they have enough land.

[deepresource] – Assessment US Offshore Wind Potential

28. The costs of lightning damage are too high

Yes, it is a danger that needs to be taken into account. But apparently the problem isn’t a show-stopper. There are thousands of large turbines and many more are planned. In other words, the problem can’t be that bad.

[scientificamerican.com] – Lightning Strikes Are a Big Problem for Wind Turbines

Here a 2014 report from a British source, that claims that world-wide every month 10 wind turbines catch fire from lightning. Work-arounds do exist and wind installations do not have to be written off in its entirety. In the worst case only the nacelle.

[ingenieur.de] – Unterschätzte Gefahr: Jeden Monat geraten zehn Windturbinen in Brand

29. Wind doesn’t reduce CO2

That’s a lie. a 6 MW offshore turbine, installed in the North Sea, generates electricity, the equivalent of ca. 800,000 barrel of oil, throughout its projected 25 years economic life. These fictitious 800,000 barrel do not end up in the atmosphere as CO2.

30. Turbines increase the cost of farming

???

31. Offshore Windmills battered by waves, wind, ice, corrosion, a hazard to ships and ecosystems

Icebergs, sub-sea mountain ridges, other ships are hazards as well for a ship. Being a good navigator is a serious business.

32. Wind turbines are far more expensive than they appear to be

Only to superficial observers. You come to mind.

33. Wind turbines are already going out of business and fewer built in Europe

LOL. This is 2018, not 2011. Now we have the Paris Climate Change Accords in place, that will ensure that offshore and onshore wind will continue to grow in Europe. It is true that oil and gas country USA opted out from these accords and will continue to invest in fossil fuel under Trump instead. The consequence will be that the US will place itself at a disastrous technological distance, once it will come to its senses regarding fossil fuel.

34. TRANSPORTATION LIMITATIONS: Windmills are so huge they’ve reached the limits of land transportation by truck or rail

These days it makes far more sense to build these huge structures at sea, where they bother no-one, not even your average protesting tree-hugger. At sea there are no limits in construction size. Even the largest wind turbines are factors smaller than these huge oil rigs.

[deepresource] – 20 MW Wind Turbines Are The Limit, Says Industry

According to offshore industry experts, it doesn’t make sense to build wind turbines larger than 20 MW. Offshore installation ships will have no trouble with installing these.

35. Windmills may only last 12 to 15 years, or at best 20 years

Wrong. Here the first two wind parks that were dismantled, one in Holland (after 22 years of service) and one in Denmark (after 26 years of service):

[deepresource] – Nuon Dismantles Offshore Wind Farm in the Netherlands
[deepresource] – World’s First Offshore Windfarm Vindeby Decommissioned

Technically, neither needed to be dismantled, but were because of economic reasons: the turbines were simply too small (ca. 500 kW) to be economic anymore. The Dutch one was dismantled after a rotor blade was broken off, which was used as an excuse to tear them down. The Danish example same story: the wind turbines operated fine and could have continued to operate for decades, but the operators didn’t bother. After 20 years of wind industry development, 5 MW turbines, rather than these miserable 0.5 MW turbines had become the new standard. It wasn’t worth the maintenance effort anymore.

36. Not In My Back Yard – NIMBYism

Yes, is an important issue… but not at sea in Europe or thinly populated areas in the US. In China, protesters are routinely “disciplined”.

37. Lack of a skilled and technical workforce

Wind energy is expanding rapidly in Europe, providing solid work for bread-winners. Never heard of a wind energy project that was cancelled because of lack of people to carry out the project.

38. Wind only produces electricity, what we face is a liquid fuels crisis

Typical laymen’s/laywoman’s idea. In reality, a kWh is a kWh. Energy is energy. One form of energy can be converted into another. Everything you can do with liquid fuel, you can do with renewable electricity or its storage derivatives like hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, etc., etc.

[deepresource] – Formic Acid as Car Fuel
[deepresource] – LightYear Solar One Goes in Production
[deepresource] – Hermes Eindhoven Realizes 1,000,000 KM All-Electric
[deepresource] – Trucks on H2 Generated by Wind turbines in the Netherlands
[deepresource] – Garbage Truck on Hydrogen in Eindhoven, the Netherlands
[deepresource] – World’s First Hydrogen Train Operational in Germany
[deepresource] – Hydrogen Fuel Cells Penetrating Shipping

39. Wind has a low capacity Factor

Define “low”? The latest large (12 MW) offshore turbines in the North Sea have a splendid 65%, that’s perfect.

[deepresource] – Offshore Wind Capacity Factors

40. Dead bugs and salt reduce wind power generation by 20 to 30%

Never heard of that one before, but then again, we are Euro-centric. After some Googling, we found this source from 1999:

[cortenergy.eu] – Insects can halve wind-turbine power

Hookay, that sounds serious, but the fact that the only article we could find dates from 1999, makes us a little suspicious about how serious this problem really is. What you “forgot” to mention is that the problem can be solved by simply cleaning the rotor blades every now and then. We doubt that this insect problem is very much of a problem above the North Sea.

41. Small windmills too expensive, too noisy, unreliable, and height restricted

In 2018, nobody in his right mind would contemplate using small wind turbines other than for hobby purposes. The larger, the cheaper per harvested kWh.

Single Post Navigation

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: