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A recent Wind Farm Case Study shows the effects of wind power generation are not well understood by the public, politicians and specifically the greens, who are not only wilfully ignorant, but also dishonest. The whole subject is shrouded in a sacred climate mystique, a smoke and mirrors subject, with unjustified, unquantified, ill defined, un-costed and unjustified savings and supposed benefits for our society, under the mantra of saving CO2 emissions.

The video link below is about the operation of the Eva Creek Wind Farm in Alaska, which is a relatively recent wind farm as it came on line in 2012. By world standards this is a relatively small wind farm at 25 MW, but it illustrates well many of the problems with putting wind power generation into existing HV (high voltage) power grids.

Wind Farm Case Study - Logo: The Business of clean energy in Alaska

EVA Creek Project Overview

Eva Creek History and Observations

The actual lecture is about 50 mins long, with questions afterwards. There are some good shots of the spectacular scenery of Alaska.

Wind Farm Case Study – KLO

Key learning outcomes summarised from this lecture:

  • Cheap money is used for finance (well below market rates) so that is probably equivalent to subsidies from our government funded clean energy foundation.
  • The plant operating entity in this situation is a not for profit organisation – so it in effect pays no tax.
  • Regulation costs are NOT included – this is an “add-on”, just to make the wind energy generators usable.

These hidden economic inputs result in a skewing of the true financial cost structure of wind energy.

This Wind Farm Case Study clearly shows that the Critical Point to note is what they call ‘regulation’ which means that there must be an equivalent power generation system (hydro, coal, gas turbine, interconnector) run in parallel with a wind farm to cover its loss when the wind speed drops off. That is why wind energy is unreliable and expensive, commonly referred to now as “intermittent” energy. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Real practical problems are encountered in controlling the power grid stability with unpredictable rates of increase/decrease of its wind generation capacity. This relates to “power system stability” – a whole new ball game of control complexity.

Availability of this new plant is 99%, however, future availability will fall as maintenance issues need to be addressed.  In fact, the average “utilisation factor” of the wind turbines is just 34%. The question needs to be asked, would you spend $1mill on a new truck for a transport business if you only used it 34% of the time?

This then leads to another problem, that if your wind turbine only supplies electrical power for 34% of the day, what happens to consumers who need electrical power (Baseload power) 24 hrs a day?, 66% of the time.  A commonly heard saying now is “if the wind don’t blow, ……….. the power don’t flow”!

The generating authority, therefore, needs to have additional generating plant running in parallel with the wind turbines, costing money to keep running, with no saleable power to export to customers! Really, how logically and economically ridiculous is this situation?

Considerable wind generation potential, in terms of dollars it could earn, are wasted because of the difficulty in controlling the power grid stability and fuel costs for load following gas turbine generators.  Also, considerable wind power generating time is lost when wind speeds are too high, or too low, which means a loss of earnings in a true financial case.

The ‘load following plants’ have major problems starting after trip conditions, so this means there has to be a backup load following plant to keep the system grid stable which creates major control problems.

Gas turbine generators (with combined cycle backends) work best at almost full load, so they are less suitable for load following. Reducing gas turbine loads causes control of the gas turbine to be unstable, resulting in trip outs, maintenance problems, increased fuel cost and unreliability.

Small-scale steam driven plants are better for load following as they can regulate their output much quicker to follow wind farm output rise and fall in power generated.

The high load demand (morning and evening meal times) is typically out of phase with the wind energy available. Maybe we should alter meal times to suit the clean green wind power?

The lecture explains how gas fuel prices for gas turbine generating plants have a large effect on the cost of power generation in a mixed regime power generating grid. This would help explain the recent flurry of federal and state government energy ministers meeting and thrashing out a stabilisation of domestic natural gas prices. Now we know why there were squeals of pain!

Now that several state governments have sold off their natural gas reserves, and overseas investors devour up the resource to export it at a few cents per litre, Australians are left as beggars in their own country to source gas to run gas turbine generation plants, so that we can use the wonderful clean green cheap renewable energy.

Sources close to the electricity generation system in Queensland indicate that there have been several gas turbine generating turbines sitting idle or mothballed, because of the high cost, or scarcity of, natural gas to fuel them at present. This makes a mockery of the current Queensland government rushing headlong into a target of 50% renewable energy mix, in a few years time.

We have been CONNED by the renewable energy lobby, as they are the snake oil salesmen of the 21st century, ably supported by technically and financially illiterate politicians in both State and Federal parliaments.

Did you Know?

Wind Farm Case Study - Did you know - Steel Facts on Wind Turbines

Additional background information can be found on the links below.

Golden Valley Electrical Association Promo Video

GVEA Short History

GVEA Photo Shoot

By Angry Engineer

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