During the past few years, the media have often published about the decreasing prices of wind and solar. The lay public who reads these stories are intentionally left with the impression the more wind and solar, the lower electricity prices will become. The real world facts show it actually is the opposite.
Plant Closures and Economics and Politics
Since 2010, California closed one nuclear plant (2,140 MW) and Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 other reactors at currently operating plants (10,980 MW in total). Those closures were due to political pressures by RE proponents, who also pressure to close “dirty” coal plants.
Wind and solar owners are allowed to feed their heavily subsidized electricity into the grid regardless of whether it is needed or not, and, usually, they get paid at above wholesale feed-in tariff rates, or at above wholesale power purchase agreement, PPA, rates; a “no lose” deal for those owners, paid for by everyone else (subsidies, cost shifting, higher prices for goods and services).
However, nuclear and coal plant owners usually get paid at wholesale prices, which have been decreasing due to the combination of 1) increased, heavily subsidized wind and solar, and 2) increased generation with low cost gas.
Remember, variable and intermittent wind and solar electricity cannot exist on any electric grid without the traditional, dispatchable, flexible, generators, primarily gas turbine plants, performing the peaking, filling-in and balancing. So it is only natural the owners of wind and solar plants and the owners of gas plants having political coalitions to promote their own agendas, which include the closures of coal and nuclear plants.
However, the US national security sector relies on the US electrical sector for 99% of its electricity. It is of vital importance for the US to have a large capacity of power plants, with large, onsite fuel storage, such as coal and nuclear plants, to ensure electricity service at a reliability of 99.97% or better, 24/7/365. Having just wind and solar, plus gas plants would greatly diminish the ensuring of that reliability.
Increasing Electricity Prices With Increased Wind and Solar
During the 2009 and 2017 period:
- The price of solar panels per watt decreased by 75%
- The price of wind turbines per watt decreased by 50%
However, the prices of electricity in places that deployed significant wind and solar increased dramatically. See figure 7 in euanmearns URL, which shows Denmark and Germany with much higher household electric prices than the rest of the EU.
Up 51% in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy from 2006 to 2016;
Up 24% in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017. See Appendix.
Up over 100% in Denmark since 1995 when it began deploying renewables (mostly wind) in earnest.
Low Prices for Coal, Gas, Oil, and Nuclear Fuels Reduces Economic Impacts of Wind and Solar
In the US, natural gas prices decreased by 72% between 2009 and 2016, due to the fracking revolution.
In Europe, natural prices decreased a little less than 50% over the same period.
The prices of nuclear and coal in those places were mostly flat during the same period.
Nuclear leaders, such as Illinois, France, Sweden and South Korea enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in the world. Since 2010, California closed one nuclear plant (2,140 MW) and Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 other reactors at currently operating plants (10,980 MW in total).
- Illinois electricity is 42 percent cheaper than in California, an RE leader.
- France electricity is 45 percent cheaper than in Germany and Denmark, RE leaders.
The lower fuel prices reduced increases in wholesale electricity prices, but those reductions were partially offset by the increasing costs of wind and solar, and partially offset by shifting costs to household electric rates; Denmark and Germany are highly visible examples. Had these fuel prices not decreased, the wind and solar adverse impacts on wholesale and household electricity prices would have been much greater.
Low Cost of Capital Reduces Economic Impacts of Wind and Solar
The economic impacts of the cost of: 1) build-outs of renewables (mostly wind and solar), 2) grid reinforcements/augmentations/extensions, 3) storage systems, 4) demand management systems, 5) performing the normal peaking, filling-in and balancing by the remaining traditional generators, and 6) dealing with the worsening duck curves in California, Germany, etc., have been significantly decreased, because of historically low interest rates during the past 10 years. Had those interest rates been at normal levels, the wind and solar adverse impacts on wholesale and household electricity prices would have been much greater.
The Cost of Duck Curves due to Solar
Duck curves are entirely due to too much solar generation during midday, i.e., a midday Tsunami*. This requires the traditional generators to significantly ramp down their outputs. However, in late afternoon/early evening, solar being minimal, these same generators have to significantly ramp up their outputs to meet peak demand. The daily down and up ramping severely stresses 1) the traditional generators (causing more wear and tear, more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh) and 2) the grid.
Grid operators have three approaches to deal with the duck curve, all of which are costly. However, the costs will not be charged to solar system owners, as that would impair the fantasy of solar being low-cost. The approaches are:
1) Having an adequate mix of traditional plant capacities to enable changing grid operational practices and have more frequent power plant cycling (up and down ramping at part load), and more frequent cold starts and stops, and increased synchronous hot standby capacity, etc.
2) Shifting part of demand to midday so solar can meet parts of the load that would not normally be present in the middle of the day.
3) Requiring owners of rooftop solar, mostly residential, and owners of field-mounted solar, mostly utilities, to have adequate battery system capacity to store their midday solar electricity, instead of just dumping it onto the grid for the owners of traditional generators to deal with.
* The solar-induced electricity surge is a large midday Tsunami, if clear skies; a variable Tsunami, if variable cloudiness; a lesser Tsunami, if overcast; a near-zero Tsunami, if snow and ice on most of the panels, in early morning, in late afternoon; a zero Tsunami, if at night. The celebrating (aka hyping), and subsidizing of that kind of troublesome electricity, and equating it with the steady, 24/7/365 electricity of traditional plants is far beyond rational.
NOTE: Figure 2 in the URL shows an up-ramp of about 13000 MW in 3 hours, or 40,000 MWh, delivered as AC to high voltage grids. If all coal, gas, oil and nuclear plants were shut down (100% RE proponents recommend it), and wind and solar were near zero in late afternoon/early evening (a frequent occurrence), and almost all of the electricity were supplied by battery systems, the capital cost would be at least 40000 x 1000 x $400/kWh = $16 billion. The battery systems have an AC-to-AC round-trip loss of about 20%, and would need to be charged and discharged several times during the other 21 hours (electricity supplied by wind, solar, bio and hydro?). See Appendix.
NOTE: These three articles show the TWh-scale storage required to cover not just daily variation of wind and solar, but also multi-day wind and solar lulls, and seasonal variations.
Duck Curves Everywhere?
With the possible exception of those in equatorial latitudes, every jurisdiction in the world that commits to include more than, say, 20% solar in its future generation mix likely will reach a duck curve threshold where daily ramping and storage/curtailment/load-shifting requirements become unmanageable and too expensive.
The level at which this threshold is reached will vary depending on local conditions, but it will generally be lower at higher latitudes than at lower latitudes, and could be as low as 10% at higher latitudes.
NOTE: German solar in 2017 was 39.9/654.8 = 6% of total generation, and wind 106.6/654.8 = 16.3% total generation. For now, Germany still manages to deal with 6% solar, because it is “allowed” to spread its excess electricity at near zero or negative wholesale prices to nearby grids. Those grids act as safety valves. That excess electricity contains a high percentage of solar, which had a legacy cost of 27 c/kWh in 2017. See appendix for solar legacy cost/kWh.
As much of the world’s electricity is generated and consumed at higher latitudes (40 - 60) one has to question whether solar isn’t more trouble than it’s worth.
RE Proponents and Reality
RE proponents often repeat the wholesale prices of wind and solar have decreased to about 5 c/kWh during the past 10 years and are now competitive with fossil also about 5 c/kWh. However, that is only true:
- Because wind and solar are highly subsidized, and only in
- Windy areas, such as the Great Plains and Texas, and sunny areas, such as the US Southwest, and because of
- Shifting of various costs to ratepayers and taxpayers and added to federal and state debts. See below sections and appendix.
Wind and solar are cripples, because they require gas and hydro plants, and battery systems, or other forms of reliable, on demand, electricity that is instantly ready to perform peaking, filling-in and balancing services when wind and solar are insufficient.
Germany, California, and Denmark are paying neighboring nations or states to take their wind and solar electricity when they are producing too much of it, due to the unreliability of wind and solar. On the European grid:
- The economic value of wind decreases about 40%, at about 30% penetration on the grid.
- The economic value of solar decreases about 50%, at about 15% penetration on the grid.
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 most expensive electricity in Europe.
Fuel Cost and CO2 Reduction due to Wind Less than Claimed
Analyses of the operating data of the Irish and Australian grids show the more wind on the grid, the less its effectiveness reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Providing the Irish grid (or German grid, etc.) with additional connections to nearby grids (which likely are much larger and have much lower percent wind on their grids) merely spreads the problem to those grids, which makes it disappear in the noise of the data. See URL.
Ignorance or Grand Deception by the Media
By endlessly reporting on the decreasing costs of wind turbines and solar panels, but not on how wind and solar increase electricity prices, journalists/reporters are intentionally or unintentionally misleading policymakers and the lay public about those two technologies.
Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported California’s electricity prices were increasing, but failed to connect the price increase to renewables, provoking a sharp rebuttal from UC Berkeley economist James Bushnell.
“The story of how California’s electric system got to its current state is a long and gory one,” Bushnell wrote, but “the dominant policy driver in the electricity sector has unquestionably been a focus on developing renewable sources of electricity generation.”
A major part of the problem is almost all journalists/reporters writing about energy have little understanding of electrical systems. They (and legislatures and the lay public) are easily swayed/bamboozled by clever bureaucrats and lobbyists parceling out biased/distorted/deficient information. They think of electricity as a commodity, whereas, in fact, it is more like a service; like eating at a restaurant.
This likely also is a problem of personal bias, not just of ignorance of electricity systems. Normally objective, skeptical journalists/reporters routinely give renewables a pass.
- They likely do not want to critically report on renewable energy, as it is not politically correct, and their editors/publishers may not approve, and job security.
- They dutifully repeat the derogatory mantras regarding non-renewable energy, as in dirty coal, dangerous nuclear.
Reporters have an obligation to accurately and fairly report on all issues they cover, especially ones as important as energy and the environment. A good start would be for them to find out why wind and solar are making the mix of electricity more expensive, if solar and wind systems are becoming so cheap.
An Analogy of Eating Out and Electricity
The price we pay for eating out includes the cost of:
- Ingredients (most of which have decreased for decades, as did the cost of wind turbines and solar panels).
- Meal preparation by a staff in a kitchen.
- Delivery of meals by a staff in a dining room.
In an electrical system:
- The ingredient is the electricity fed to the grid.
- Regarding preparation, if the electricity is steady (not variable and not intermittent, as are wind and solar), with steady voltage, frequency and phase angle, very little preparation is required. If the electricity is variable and intermittent, more and more preparation, and grid expansions/reinforcements, and storage are required as wind and solar increase on the grid.
- Delivery of the electricity, 24/7/365, is by means of the grid under the supervision of a grid operator.
High Electricity Prices for RE in New England
The highly subsidizedwholesale 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.
- Onshore/ridgeline wind, about 9.5 c/kWh
- Offshore wind, large-scale systems, about 16 - 18 c/kWh
- Large-scale, field-mounted, competitively auctioned solar, about 12 - 13.5 c/kWh
- Residential, rooftop solar, about 18 - 19 c/kWh
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 fewhours during a 13-y period were wholesale prices higher than 6 c/kWh. Those prices are low, because of low-cost gas, nuclear and hydro plants, all of which produce at about 5 c/kWh. The last four peaks in the graph 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.
NOTE: The NE states have the highest household electric rates in the US, but that has nothing to do with NE wholesale rates, which have been about 5 c/kWh since 2009. Adding more and more highly subsidized wind (onshore and offshore) at 9 to 18 c/kWh and highly subsidized solar at 12 to 18 c/kWh to the wholesale mix, and closing down low-cost traditional plants will surely further increase NE wholesale prices and retail rates.
Overbuilding and Export/Import and Curtailment
RE proponents say, just over build “low-cost”, highly subsidized, wind and solar so there will be plenty of “low-cost” electricity, even when the wind is barely blowing and the sun is barely shining, and even with snow and ice on most of the panels.
That likely would be very expensive with one 4-day wind lull, followed a few days later by another 4-day wind lull, not an unusual occurrence in New England during December through March, with solar near zero most of the time and with snow and ice on most of the panels. Large-scale storage would be required, after the future closings of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear plants. See URL.
RE proponents say, when the wind IS blowing and the sun IS shining, just curtail the excess electricity, or export any surplus electricity at near-zero or negative prices, as Germany and Denmark have been doing for decades; the excessive exports could upset the grids of neighbors.
France and Germany
France generates about 80% of all its generation by nuclear. It has balanced all of its generation with its own generators for decades. No imports or exports, no curtailments, etc., were required.
Next-door Germany exports when it is windy and sunny, i.e., overproduces, and imports when it is not windy and sunny, i.e., underproduces.
Germany is using adjacent grids as a crutches/safety valves, because Germany's remaining traditional generators can no longer deal with the variable wind and solar production.
Germany and Denmark, both RE leaders, with highest household electric rates in the EU (about 30 eurocent/kWh) have been practicing such expensive follies for at least 20 years. As there is no free lunch, except in RE LaLaLand, their subsidy costs:
- Show up as surcharges, taxes and fees, mostly on household electric bills. Industry and commerce are mostly spared for competitive reasons.
- Show up as higher prices for goods and services.
- Are added to the national debt and state debts.
RE proponents say, if there is still not enough electricity, just apply “demand management”, and/or import via tie lines, likely at higher wholesale prices. This article shows demand management, aka, demand response, has not worked in Denmark and California.
RE proponents also root for increased energy efficiency, and plug-in hybrids, and plug-in EVs, and cold-climate heat pumps, as they would help achieve New England CO2 reduction goals.
The Economic Viability of Traditional Generators
The traditional generators have to provide more and more peaking, filling-in and balancing services as wind and solar increase, and have to run their plants less efficiently (more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh), as they ramp up and down at part load, and have to sell less electricity per year, and will get too low prices for their smaller production to remain financially viable.
Shutting Down Coal, Gas, Oil and Nuclear Plants
RE proponents, who likely never analyzed or designed any energy systems, tell us to shut down the dirty coal, gas, and oil plants and the dangerous nuclear plants, because there will be low-cost storage, at about $100/kWh (the Holy Grail), to perform the peaking, filling-in and balancing services. They likely confuse mass-produced car battery packs with custom-designed utility-scale systems. See next paragraphs.
Mass-Produced Battery Packs for Cars
At present, the estimated costs of mass-produced battery packs are as shown in table 1. These battery packs are charged with AC from a wall socket and deliver DC to the motors.
Tesla Model S
Battery pack total
* Other accounts for pack enclosure, module housings, wiring, circuitry, and plumbing for liquid heating/cooling.
NOTE: Above cost estimates cover only the materials and labor costs of the battery pack. They do not include profit and any costs of overhead, invested capital, shipment and installation of the battery pack into a vehicle, and many other costs required to operate a car company. If those costs were added, above battery pack prices would be at least 50% greater.
Utility-Scale Battery Pack Systems:
The turnkey project costs of utility-scale, custom-built, stationary battery systems inserted into an electric grid, likely would be at least $400/kWh, because of much lower order volumes and field conditions. These battery systems are charged with AC from the grid and deliver AC to the grid.
The installed cost of the Australian Powerpack system was about $50 million, or 50 million/129,000 = $388/kWh; this is a low price, because Tesla was eager to get the contract. The system battery is paired with French-owned 315 MW Hornsdale Wind Farm. It will help balance the South Australian grid, as well as provide about 60 minutes of emergency power for 30,000 homes in the event of a blackout.
Battery Round-Trip Losses: Battery-based electricity storage has about a 20% loss, on an AC-to-AC basis. Connecting all that distributed storage, and O&M, and replacements have losses as well. The more wind and solar on the grid, the more electricity will pass through storage, the greater the losses. RE proponents say, just overbuild wind and solar some more to offset the storage losses
Replacing Gas, Coal, Oil and Nuclear by Wind and Solar and Storage
RE proponents tell us, the closings of gas, coal, oil, and nuclear plants are necessary to save the world, per Paris COP21 pledges. Those plants would not be available to perform the peaking, filling-in and balancing services. Battery systems can perform these services. The required storage, just for New England, would be about 8 TWh delivered as AC, at a cost of $3752 billion, if $400/kWh, or $938 billion, if $100/kWh (the Holy Grail). See URL for details.
Synchronous Rotational Inertia
The closings of the gas, coal, oil and nuclear plants would deprive the grid of its major stabilizing force; wind provides minimal inertia and solar provides none. This aspect has been studied for at least the past 20 years.
- The generators of the closed plants should be used as synchronous condensers.
- Wind and solar should be modified to provide synthetic inertia.
- All inertia would have to be provided by the synchronous condensers, when wind and solar are minimal, as during multi-day wind lulls, during periods with minimal solar, and during periods with snow and ice on most of the panels. See URLs and appendix.
The Irish Electric System: This article describes in some detail the additional ancillary services required to: 1) facilitate greater percentages of non-synchronous wind and solar on the grid, and 2) minimize curtailments of wind. The cost of these new services is charged to ratepayers and taxpayers, not to the owners of wind and solar systems. See URL.
Cost Shifting is the Name of the Game
Here is a list of the costs that were shifted, i.e., notcharged to wind and solar owners, which make wind and solar appear to bemuch less costly, than in reality.
Those costs, as c/kWh, could be quantified, but it is politically convenient to charge them to: 1) ratepayers via rate schedules (taxes, fees and surcharges), 2) taxpayers, and 3) federal and state debts.
1) The various forms of inertia (presently provided by gas, coal, oil, nuclear, bio and hydro plants).
2) Additional ancillary services to facilitate greater percentages of wind and solar on the grid.
3) The filling-in, peaking and balancing by traditional generators due to wind and solar variability/intermittency.
4) Any battery systems to stabilize distribution grids with many solar systems.
5) Any measures to deal with DUCK curves, such as utility-scale storage and demand management
6) Grid-related, such as grid extensions and augmentations to connect and deal with wind and solar. See note.
7) Utility-scale electricity storage (presently provided by the world’s fuel supply system).
Those items are separate from the high levels of subsidies, which also make wind and solar appear to be much less costly, than in reality. See appendix.
All that enables RE proponents to endlessly proclaim: “Wind and solar are competitive with fossil and nuclear”.
NOTE: For example, to bring wind electricity from the Panhandle in west Texas to population centers in east Texas, $7 billion of transmission was built. The entire cost was “socialized”, i.e., a surcharge on residential electric bills.
Vermont has an anemic, near-zero, real-growth economy, which does not produce enough tax revenues year after year, partially due to the huge RE giveaways, such as:
The state giving ITC money (extracted from already over-burdened taxpayers) to the tax shelters of multi-millionaires, who own the larger systems, and not collecting taxes due to rapid depreciation write-offs, etc., has resulted in contributing to chronic budget deficits.
The state legalizing above subsidies has resulted in higher NE electric rates than they would have been.
Money received by investors in the early years, such as upfront federal and state ITCs, is always better than in later years.
The SO projects are structured to provide a risk-free internal rate of return (IRR) of about 9%/y, which is similar to an electrical utility in Vermont, such as GMP. It is quite generous compared to long-term interest rates of 4.5%/y.
During the first 6 years of a solar project, the economic cost is 27.1 c/kWh (using only 3 of the above 6 subsidies to simplify the analysis). Because of rapid solar build-outs, a substantial part of the installed solar capacity is less than 6 years old, and therefore in 27.1 c/kWh mode, in New England. The same is true for wind projects. Wind and solar projects in this mode act as a major drag on economic growth.
The above average of 27.1 c/kWh for the first 6 years and average of 13.036 c/kWh for 25 years, are the highly subsidized costs, which excludes the costs of externalities that are shifted.
Various Subsidies for Wind and Solar
Because of the various subsidies, taxpayers and rate payers are forced to pay 1) higher monthly electricity bills, 2) higher prices for goods and services, and 2) taxes to finance various subsidies for wind, solar and other RE producers. Here is a partial list:
- The federal ITC, 30% of the qualified portion of the turnkey capital cost. The federal ITC is an upfront, tax credit that can be applied against any of owner’s taxes.
- The state ITC, usually a percentage of the federal ITC. The state ITC is an upfront, tax credit that can be applied against any of owner’s taxes.
- The federal production tax credit, PTC, of 2.4 c/kWh for the first 10 years of operation, a subsidy of 2.4/5 = 48% of the US average wholesale price. No wonder owners are crowing about underbidding traditional generating plants. For example, in areas with good winds, low construction costs and low operation and maintenance costs (Texas, Great Plains), if an owner’s cost is 7.3 c/kWh and he deducts 2.4 c/kWh as PTC, then his bid price could be 4.9 c/kWh, which is sufficient to get the contract, in most cases, and “competitive” with traditional plants.
- The federal and state tax savings due to rapid depreciation write-offs in about 5 to 6 years, much more rapid than normal utility equipment write-off schedules of 10 to 20 years. Having tax savings earlier, instead of later, is financially more advantageous.
- The exemption of equipment purchases from the state sales tax and from the education property tax.
- Selling wind electricity at generous feed in tariffs of about 9 - 10 c/kWh in areas with high capital costs and low capacity factors (CFs), such as New England.
- Selling solar electricity at generous feed in tariffs of about 13.5 - 14.5 c/kWh in areas with high capital costs and low capacity factors, such as New England.
- Selling renewable energy credits, RECs, which lower the utility purchased RE energy cost by up to 50%.
- Loan guarantees by the federal and state government, which lower the interest rate of the funds borrowed from private entities, because the federal and state government assume the risk of the loans.
California’s electricity prices increased 5.7 times faster than the rest of the US during the 2011 - 2017 period, due to the rapid build-outs of wind and solar and storage.
Germany’s Solar Sector Growth Decreased
- Feed-in tariffs (FITs) for new solar systems (residential rooftop) were about 49.2 eurocent/kWh in 2007; and about 12.2 eurocent/kWh in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
- Larger-scale, ground-mounted FITs were about 8.0 eurocent/kWh in 2015, 2016 and 2017. See figure 4 of Fraunhofer URL.
- Investments for new solar systems were 5.5 b euro in 2007 and 19.5 b euro in 2010 (the high point), but were only 2.40, 1.62 and 1.58 b euro in 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively.
- Solar sector employment was 38,600 in 2007; peaked at 110,900 in 2011; was only 31,600 in 2015.
- Annual solar system capacity additions were over 7000 MW in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (the high point years), but were only 1320, 1490 and 2260 MW in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, less than the 2500 MW/y Energiewende goal.
- Annual solar electricity generation slightly increased during 2015, 2016 and 2017, due to annual capacity additions.
- Legacy solar electricity cost was about 53 eurocent/kWh in 2005 and 2006 and slowlydecreased to about 27 eurocent/kWh in 2017. That legacy cost will be slowlydecreasing as about 2000 MW/y is added to the installed capacity. See figure 4 in Fraunhofer URL.
- On a sunny day, much solar electricity is generated at about 27 eurocent/kWh, and very little by the traditional generators at about 5 eurocent/kWh, thus the national mix of electricity costs at least 20 eurocent/kWh. A part of that mix is exported at near-zero or negative wholesale prices.
- In 2017, the average FIT was = 0.30 x 12.2 (small rooftop) + 0.70 x (4.8 + 6.5)/2 (large-scale, ground-mounted) = 7.615 c/kWh, which reduced the solar FIT from 28.1 c/kWh at end 2016 to (40720 x 28.1 + 2260 x 7.615)/42980 = 27 c/kWh at end 2017, a reduction of about 1.0 c/y.
- German household electricity prices were 15 eurocent/kWh in 2000; were about 30 eurocent/kWh in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, a 100% increase in 17 years. See URL.
- The renewables surcharge of German household electric bills was 0.88 eurocent/kWh in 2006; was 6.79 eurocent/kWh in 2018. About 50% of that surcharge was for solar subsidies.
- EU-28 average household cost was 21 eurocent/kWh in 2017.
- In Germany and Denmark, wind and solar leaders, household electric rates were 30 and 31 eurocent/kWh, respectively, in 2017.
Voltage-Regulating Facility for 63 MW Lowell Wind System: According to ISO-NE, because the voltage and frequency variations were too excessive for the local grid, a 27.5 MVAR voltage-regulating facility needed to be installed by GMP. It was located adjacent to the Jay Peak 46 kV switching station, housed in a 40’ x 68’ x 45’5” tall building, surrounded by 70’ x 90’ x 8’ tall fencing.
The voltage regulating is performed by a Hyundai-supplied, 62-ton, synchronous-condenser system, operating at 3,600 rpm and at no load, 24/7/365 (high-speed idling, year-round), plus electrical systems for adding or subtracting reactive energy to satisfy below-criteria voltages on the 115 kV transmission system.
It requires an 800-hp motor to get it up to speed and maintain it there. The system capital cost was about $10.5 million. During all of 2013 and part of 2014, Lowell was operated in curtailed mode, as required by ISO-NE.
S-C systems have energy losses of about 3%, i.e., 97% efficient, plus the facility has its own levelized (Owning + O&M) costs, which adversely affect the project economics. Electricity loss of only the S-C system = 800 hp x 0.746 kW/hp x 8,766 hr/y x 0.03 = 156,946 kWh/y.
The Tesla Powerpack system in Australia, the largest in the world, has a rated capacity of 100 MW/129 MWh delivered as AC. The system 1) smoothens the variable output of a nearby 315 MW French-owned wind turbine system, 2) prevents load-shedding blackouts and 3) provides stability to the grid, during times other generators are started in the event of sudden drops in wind or other network issues. Here is an aerial photo of the system on a 10-acre site. The installed cost of the Australian Powerpack system was about $50 million, or 50 million/129,000 = $388/kWh; this is a low price, because Tesla was eager to obtain the contract.
Michael Shellenberger Articles:
1) If Renewables Are So Great for the Environment, Why Do They Keep Destroying It?
2)Solar And Wind Lock-In Fossil Fuels, And That Makes Saving The Climate Harder And More Expensive
3) California's Solar Roof Law Will Raise Housing And Energy Prices But Do Little To Reduce Emissions
4) We Don't Need Solar And Wind To Save The Climate -- And It's A Good Thing, Too
China is on a nuclear build-out trajectory to 100,000 MW by about 2035. China builds these plants at about $4000/kW in about 4 years in China, and at about $5000/kW in about 5 - 6 years elsewhere. Russia's Rosatom does the same.
China and Russia are doing what France, the US, Europe, Japan, etc., did some decades ago, but with plants that are much more safe/efficient, just as to-day's cars are much more safe/efficient.
If spreadsheet analyses were performed using Chinese/Russian numbers and realistic 60 year lives, the economics of nuclear would be much less costly than highly subsidized, variable, intermittent wind and solar, that are over-hyped by the media and RE proponents, and are made to APPEAR less costly than traditional plants because excessive subsidies and cost shifting.
The wind and solar approach, which WILL NOT sufficiently reduce world CO2, is far beyond rational.