ALASKA – Wind Farm Case Study

ALASKA – Wind Farm Case Study

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

AGL Coopers Gap Wind Farm

AGL Coopers Gap Wind Farm

More like a puff of hot air, the AGL ‘fail’!

The AGL Coopers Gap Wind Farm shows just how gullible we all are!   We are being systematically and financially attacked by unsustainable and unaffordable electricity costs from energy producers, facilitated by state and federal governments. Many of us cannot afford basic electricity in a nation blessed with abundant natural resources!  

The RET (renewable energy targets) funded by taxpayers to the tune of $3billion per annum, is causing an ‘energy-crisis’ in this nation.  But who is standing up and speaking up about this crisis and offering a solution for affordable energy? While we increase exports of coal and gas to China and India- some of the world’s most prolific polluters- to produce competitively priced goods – we slug our industries and citizens with higher energy prices to fund the ‘renewable energy monster’.  Industries become uncompetitive, people lose jobs and an essential service becomes a luxury for many everyday Aussies. To be sustainable, renewables such as wind, solar and hydro must stand on their own two- feet economically!

Here are some comments on the latest ‘AGL Coopers Gap Wind Farm’ development

The PARF Fund (Powering Australian Renewables Fund) seems to be a commercial vehicle set up to capture Queensland’s Labor State Government renewable subsidy funds, to deliver their 50% renewable energy target.  To date we have not seen any details of Labors proposed 50% RET, and what impact this will have on taxpayers. Prior to the Queensland state election, voters were not given details, before going to the ballot box.  Neither has the Queensland Labor Government given any financial justification, based on facts and economic necessity, for pursuing a 50% renewable energy target. A similar renewable energy target has demonstrated its ability to wreak havoc on the South Australian economy, and now the newly elected Queensland Labor Government seems determined to replicate the South Australian disaster.

It is interesting to note the ‘justifications’ on the AGL web page for the Coopers Gap Wind Farm, demonstrate an interesting mix of pure fantasy and unadulterated misinformation.

The Coopers Gap Wind Farm output at maximum capacity (i.e. when the wind is blowing at about 35 – 45 Km/hr) is 453 MW, or enough to power 260,000 average domestic homes. However, what if your consumer mix is not all average homes, but a mix of light, medium and heavy industry, and homes?  When the wind velocity falls off, another generating plant (coal or gas) is required to generate the drop-off and keep the power on.  The benefit claimed by AGL (i.e. number of average residences powered by wind) is a fallacy, but an impressive number nonetheless, but a number which is totally irrelevant when considering the requirements of baseload electricity for industry.

123 wind turbines produce 453 MW power at maximum design wind velocity, which gives a unit wind turbine capacity of 3.68 MW (453 / 123) each.   Yearly generating capacity of the Coopers Gap facility is given as 1,510,000 MW hrs.  If the wind turbines were to operate 100% of the time, the theoretical maximum output would be 3, 965,126 MW hrs. (123 turbines x 3.68 MW x 24 hrs / day x 365 days).   Utilisation factor is therefore (1,510,000 / 3,965,126) or 38%.  This means that alternative coal or gas fuel generation is required for 62% of the time to keep the lights on, air conditioners operating, refrigeration operating in homes and supermarkets, smelting plants operational, commercial buildings illuminated, computers and security systems operational, hospitals fully functioning, traffic lights and street lights working etc.   The question, therefore, needs to be asked; Would any commercially responsible company (i.e. not government subsidized) put in a plant that only produced a return 38% of the time??

ABC news and other local news outlets report the ‘benefits’ of The Coopers Gap Wind Farm as helping economically depressed rural farming areas, and the wind turbine royalty to each of the 12 farms greatly benefiting the economic viability of the area. No mention of the increase in consumer costs, and the resultant ‘ripple effect’ to businesses, farms and livelihoods. No mention of the geographic suitability of the site. Surely not a rational financial reason for placing a wind farm in an area??

Now for some additional information I believe is relevant to the efficient running of a power generation industry.  In previous decades, various state governments had a power generation authority (ECNSW, QEGB, ETSA, SECV etc) who were tasked with owning and operating power generation utilities.  These authorities, although slightly unwieldy and feather- bedded to a degree, had a core group of qualified professional engineers who could advise various state governments of industry needs with respect to electrical power generation and load demand.  These generation authorities have long since been disbanded in the rush for imaginary cost savings and government efficiencies. There are now no qualified professionals regulating power generation and demand!    Their function has now been usurped by under-educated, and virtue-signalling politicians supported by vocal special interest groups, who get the ‘green light’ to install renewable energy generating plants throughout the states and territories without regard to good electrical engineering practice – hence South Australia now has state-wide power outages and runaway power costs – some of the most expensive electricity in the developed world.  

This high cost of renewables is a result of subsidies for the RET (renewable energy target) on the threat of climate catastrophism. Subsidies to one sector of energy generation skew the market and remove a level playing field for other electricity generators.  Opportunistic companies then take advantage of easy-money subsidies and close viable and competitive energy producing plants and replace them with higher-cost renewables energy. It is a lazy ‘get-rich-quick’ business strategy!

This then results in a lack of investment in traditional power generation using our nation’s resource-rich supplies of coal and gas.  Generating options such as HELO (high energy, low omissions) coal and natural gas-fired power stations which could deliver the cheapest market rate power to all Australians are being shelved in preference of subsidized unreliable, and unaffordable renewable energy production, while exporting our competitive natural resource advantage, overseas.

I have travelled extensively around Tasmania and viewed some of their wind turbine sites. In Tasmania, the highest wind speeds are typically in the southern coastal latitudes, known as the roaring 40’s in the days of sailing ships.  

Area for new Coopers Gap Wind Farm

Sub-tropical areas are not usually known for year-round high-velocity prevailing winds.   A typical wind turbine site in Tasmania is characterised by being a coastal area exposed to the prevailing westerly winds year-round. Two fine examples are Cape Grim and Cape Portland which have wind farms.   Neither of the above 2 conditions is evident at the Coopers Gap Wind Farm, so one wonders if it is suitable for the purpose, or is it just a political expediency and virtue signalling to the climate change myth?

My experience along the Queensland coast is that for 75% of the time, this area is subject to SE trade winds ridging up the coastal strip, with the remaining 20% of the time wind coming from the NE off the Coral Sea. The remaining 5% of the time winds are cold and dry from the west, particularly during the month of August.

Wind Farms could be short-term expediency for cash-strapped technically– deficient and nervous politicians who succumb to the shrill cries of Greens protestors, every time an environmental impact study must be tabled.  Not being discussed at any point, is the environmental and economic cost of producing wind turbines, which will be discussed in another article.

I am of the opinion the financial backers of Wind Farms rely on guaranteed power supply contracts, over a 20 yr wind farm lifespan.  At the end of the term, the keys are handed over to others to maintain the infrastructure.  What happens, therefore, when the average wind turbine lifespan is just 12 years? Is the shelf life sufficiently long enough to justify its huge economic and environmental cost? Who takes responsibility for removing these decommissioned monoliths?

The Outsider interviewed  CEO of AGL, Andy Vesey, living in West Virginia, US powers his house with coal-fired electricity.

Meanwhile, he has declared coal ………………………………………………….and destroys this nation’s ability to have affordable and reliable power from coal. Could this be seen as the ultimate hypocrisy?  

In summary:

Will the Coopers Gap Wind Farm deliver sustainable, affordable and reliable power, and produce a significant ROI (return on investment) or be another economic and environmental dinosaur?

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