Shortcomings of Wind And Solar
Variable and intermittent wind and solar electricity cannot exist on any electric grid without the traditional, dispatchable generators performing the peaking, filling-in and balancing. Battery systems could be used, but the cost would be well in excess of $400 per kilowatt-hour delivered as AC to the high voltage grid. See Note.
NOTE: Wind and solar (before and after the meter) were 2.7 and 1.97 percent of all electricity on the NE grid in 2017, per ISO-NE. Total RE electricity was 10.17 percent (including before and after the meter solar), after about 20 years of subsidies. It should be obvious, past RE development was very slow, and future development likely will be just as slow. See URL.
Wind and Solar as Dominant Electricity Sources Would be Too Expensive
Very High Capital Costs for Wind and Solar: New Englanders will need traditional generators for at least several decades while RE would become the major energy source of the NE grid.
The current plan is to increase solar from 2390.5 MW to 5832.9 MW by 2027, which would costabout (5832.9 - 2390.5) x $3.5 million/MW + 10% for transmission = $13.2 billion.
The current plan is to increase wind from 1279 MW to 8493 MW by about 2035, which would cost about $36.2 billion.
Very High Electricity Costs for Wind and Solar: Renewable energy proponents want to close down existing coal, gas, oil and nuclear plants; all produce electricity at less than 5 cent per kilowatt-hour. They continue to obstruct increased, domestic, low-cost natural gas supply via pipelines and increased storage capacity.
NOTE: According to her press release: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey concluded in 2016 “no new pipelines are needed” and that we “can maintain electric reliability through 2030 even without additional new natural gas pipelines”. See Appendix.
The prices of heavily subsidized wind and solar paid by NE utilities to producers are much higher than in the rest of the US, because of New England’s mediocre wind and solar conditions.
Onshore/ridge line wind about 9.5 cent per kilowatt-hour
Offshore wind, until recently, at least 18 cent. See Appendix.
Large-scale, field-mounted, competitively bid solar about 13 cent.
Residential, rooftop solar about 18 cent
The above prices would be about 30% to 50% higher without the subsidies, and even higher without cost shifting to ratepayers and taxpayers, such as for:
1) The filling-in, peaking and balancing, due to wind and solar variability/intermittency;
2) Grid-related, such as grid extensions and augmentations to connect and deal with wind and solar;
3) Utility-scale energy storage, which is presently provided by the world’s fuel supply system.
High Electricity Prices for RE in New England: The highly subsidized wholesale prices of wind and solar paid by utilities to producers are much higher than in the rest of the US, because of New England’s mediocre wind and solar conditions.
Wind and Solar Far From Competitive with Fossil in New England: The Conservation Law Foundation claims renewables are competitive with fossil. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a list of NE wholesale prices and Power Purchase Agreement, PPA, prices.
NE field-mounted solar is 12 c/kWh; competitively bid
NE rooftop solar is 18 c/kWh, net-metered; GMP adds costs of 3.813 c/kWh, for a total of 21.813 c/kWh
NE wind offshore until recently about 18 c/kWh
NE wind ridgeline is at least 9 c/kWh
DOMESTIC pipeline gas is 5 c/kWh
Russian and Middle East imported LNG is at least 9 c/kWh
NE nuclear is 4.5 c/kWh
NE hydro is 4 c/kWh; about 10 c/kWh, if Standard Offer in Vermont.
Hydro-Quebec imported hydro is 6 - 7 c/kWh; GMP paid 5.549 c/kWh in 2016, under a recent 20-y contract.
NE annual average wholesale price about 5 c/kWh, unchanged since 2009, courtesy of low-cost gas and nuclear.
NOTE: Vineyard Wind, 800 MW, fifteen miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, using 8 or 10 MW turbines, 750 ft tall.
Phase 1 on line in 2021, electricity offered at an average of 8.9 c/kWh over 20 years
Phase 2 offered at an average of 7.9 c/kWh over 20 years
NOTE: The NE grid is divided in regions, each with Local Market Prices, LMPs, which vary from 2.5 - 3.5 c/kWh from 10 pm to about 6 pm; slowly increase to about 6 - 7 c/kWh around noon time, when solar is maximal; are about 7 - 8 c/kWh in late afternoon/early evening (peak demand hours), when solar is minimal. Unusual circumstances, such as power plant or transmission line outages, can cause LMPs to increase to 20 - 40 c/kWh, and even higher when such events occur during peak demand hours.
NOTE: The above prices would be about 50% higher without the subsidies and even higher without cost shifting. See Appendix.
NOTE: Here is an ISO-NE graph, which shows for very few hours during a 13-y period were wholesale prices higher than 6 c/kWh. Those prices are low because of low-cost gas, low-cost nuclear and low-cost hydro. The last four peaks were due to:
- Pipeline constraints, aggravated by the misguided recalcitrance of pro-RE Governors of NY and MA
- Pre-mature closings of coal and nuclear plants
- Lack of more robust connections to nearby grids, such as New York and Canada. See URLs.
Wind and Solar Conditions in New England: New England has highly variable weather and low-medium quality wind and solar conditions. See NREL wind map and NREL solar map.
- Wind electricity is zero about 30% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors)
- Wind is minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons/early evenings (peak demand hours), especially during summer
- Wind often is minimal 5 - 7 days in a row in summer and winter, as proven by ISO-NE real-time generation data.
- About 60% is generated at night, when demand is much less than during the late afternoons/early evenings
- About 60% is generated in winter.
- During winter, the best wind month is up to 2.5 times the worst summer month
- New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.262) of any US region, except the US South. See URL.
- Solar electricity is strictly a midday affair.
- It is zero about 65% of the hours of the year, mostly at night.
- It often is minimal 5 - 7 days in a row in summer and in winter, as proven by ISO-NE real-time generation data.
- It is minimal early mornings and late afternoons/early evenings
- It is minimal much of the winter months
- It is minimal for several days with snow and ice on most of the panels.
- It varies with variable cloudiness, which would excessively disturb distribution grids with many solar systems, as happens in southern California and southern Germany on a daily basis. Utilities use batteries to stabilize their grids.
- During summer, the best solar month is up to 4 times the worst winter month; that ratio is 6 in Germany.
- New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.145, under ideal conditions) of any region in the US, except some parts of the US Northwest.
NOTE: Even if the NE grid had large capacity connections with Canada and New York, any major NE wind lull and any major NE snowfall likely would affect the entire US northeast, i.e., relying on neighboring grids to "help-out" likely would not be prudent strategy.
Wind Plus Solar:
ISO-NE publishes the minute-by-minute outputs off various energy sources contributing their electricity to the grid.
All one has to do is add the wind and solar and one comes rapidly to the conclusion both are minimal many hours of the year, at any time during the year.
Wind plus solar production could be minimal for 5 - 7 days in summer and in winter, especially with snow and ice on most of the panels, as frequently happens during December, January and February, as proven by ISO-NE real-time generation data.
If we were to rely on wind and solar for most of our electricity, massive energy storage systems (a few hundred GWh-scale for Vermont, multiple TWh-scale for NE) would be required to cover multi-day wind lulls, multi-day overcast/snowy periods, and seasonal variations. See URLs.
Wind and solar cannot ever be expected to charge New England’s EVs, so people can get to work the next day, unless backed up by several TWh of storage, because wind/solar lulls can occur for 5 - 7 days in a row, in summer and in winter. BTW, the turnkey capital cost of one TWH of storage (delivered as AC to the grid) is about $400 billion.
LNG Deliveries to Everett, MA During 2017/2018 Gas Shortage: The Christophe de Margerie, a Russian-owned icebreaking tanker, named after the deceased former CEO of Total, motored into Isle de Grain, UK, on Dec. 28, according to market information provider ICIS. It unloaded LNG from the new Yamal gas/oil plant in Russia. See Note.
The Gaselys, a French-owned tanker, arrived at Isle de Grain, UK, which is a large LNG storage facility in the UK that receives gas from many sources, including the Netherlands, Norway, Middle East, Russia, etc.
It took on a cargo of commingled LNG, including LNG from the Christophe de Margerie. See Note.
It left the port on Jan. 7
It arrived at the ENGIE terminal (owned by a French company) in Everett, Mass., three weeks later and delivered its payload.
Both tankers were built in Korea.
Everett LNG storage is 3.4 bcf, peak delivery 1 bcf, maximum continuous delivery 0.715 bcf.
LNG density = 450 kg/m3
GDF Suez Gaz NA, a French company, owns the LNG plants in Trinidad and Tobago that supply most of the LNG to Everett.
It is amazing how much of the LNG infrastructure, and LNG storage plants, and LNG fleets are built and owned by foreigners! See URL.
NOTE: Shipments of Russian oil and gas are not subject to sanctions, but “US persons and those in the US” are prohibited from financing Novatek, the lead company in the construction of Yamal LNG.
The French, our friendly trading partner, took advantage of that. TOTAL, a French company owns 20% of Yamal and will own 10% of Yamal LNG 2.
Wind and Solar Electricity is Minuscule After 20 years of Subsidies: Wind and solar (before and after the meter) were 2.7 and 1.97 percent of all electricity on the NE grid in 2017, per ISO-NE. Total RE electricity was 10.17 percent (including before and after the meter solar), after about 20 years of subsidies.
- Past RE development has been very slow even with subsidies.
- Federal investment tax credit subsidies for wind and solar are scheduled to decrease.
- NE will need traditional generators for decades.
NOTE: The realities of life are it took decades to increase:
- Natural gas from a few percent of the US electricity mix to over 30% in 2017
- Nuclear from zero percent of the US electricity mix to about 20% in 2017
- Wind and solar from near zero of the US electricity mix to 6.4% and 1.9%, respectively in 2017, and it would take decades more to have 30% to 40% of the US electricity mix from wind and solar, plus electricity generation uses only about 40% of all US primary energy. Converting that other 60% to renewables would be a Herculean task and very expensive, as shown in this article.
New England is one of the worst areas for wind, except for the South, and one of the worst areas for solar, except for the Northwest.
Here are some articles I wrote on energy that explain wind and solar require huge storage capacity, MW/MWh, to store surplus wind, solar and other electricity so it can be used at times when the total wind and solar electricity is insufficient.
Germany's Energiewende could not exist, if the German grid did not have very robust connections to nearby grids to get rid of surpluses during windy periods in the North, and to get rid of surpluses during sunny days in the South.
- Without those "safety valves", Germany's other generators would not be able to balance the generation variations.
- During surplus/low demand periods, wholesale prices are low, near zero and sometimes negative, but the wind and solar electricity have a legacy cost of about 20 eurocent/kWh.
- That situation will be getting worse as more wind and solar is built, unless Germany builds out its OWN storage.
- Shutting down its nuclear plants was far beyond rational, as it was a large source of near-CO2-free electricity.
Korea, China and Russia are building modern, safe, nuclear plants, at 5 - 6 thousand dollar/kW turnkey, all over the world, with a total capacity well exceeding any shutdowns. As a result, world nuclear electricity, TWh, has been increasing for three years in a row.
Japan, the EU and the US will fall behind building competitive plants, just as Detroit fell behind building competitive cars.
RE proponents often repeat the wholesale prices of wind and solar have decreased to about 5 c/kWh or less during the past 10 years and are now competitive with coal and gas at about 5 c/kWh. However, that is only true:
- Because of high subsidies for wind and solar
- In the most windy areas, such as the Great Plains and Texas, and most sunny areas, such as the US Southwest
- The shifting of various wind and solar costs to ratepayers and taxpayers, and to federal and state debts.
In 2017, the wind and solar share was 53% in Denmark, 26% in Germany, and 23% in California. Denmark and Germany have the first and second highest household electric rates in Europe, but France, 75% nuclear, has one of the lowest household rates.
Wind and Solar are Cripples: Wind and solar are cripples that cannot exist on the grid by themselves without huge energy storage systems to cover daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal variations after the “dirty/dangerous” nuclear, coal and gas plants are closed, as demanded by 100% RE proponents.
They cannot be compared with wind and solar, because they require the support ofnuclear, coal, gas and hydro plants, that are instantly ready to perform peaking, filling-in and balancing services when wind and solar are insufficient to provide electrical service at a 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365, year after year.
Wind and Solar Lose Market Value at Higher Percent Penetrations: Germany, California, and Denmark are selling their highly subsidized wind and solar electricity at near zero and negative wholesale prices to neighboring nations or states when they are producing too much of it during windy and sunny periods.
According to a recent study, on the European grid:
- The economic value of wind decreases about 40%, at about 30% annual penetration on the grid.
- The economic value of solardecreases about 50%, at about 15% annual penetration on the grid.