Wind Turbines Spectacularly Fail

I’m becoming more and more sceptical of the notion that renewables can easily replace coal- and gas-fired power stations. Renewables like wind and solar are more properly called intermittents because they only produce electricity when the conditions are right; wind when the wind is blowing and solar when the sun is up.

While solar is a somewhat predictable, wind is totally not.

Below are some images from AEMO, the Australian Energy Market Operator. For a large portion of May 2024, there was very little wind across the whole of eastern Australia and so wind generation, both day and night, was ridiculously low. During this period, we would have needed some 40 times as many wind turbines as we already have if we wanted to keep all the lights on without coal and gas. Alternatively, we would have needed untold trillions of dollars’ worth of batteries.

The graphs below are damning. The electricity generators (the companies, that is) have to be able to meet 100% of the demand 100% of the time. If they can’t, we get blackouts. It’s no good what they can produce on average.

A week or so ago, the NSW government announced that it would not close Eraring Power Station in 2025 as planned but would keep it open until 2027. Eraring generates about 3 GW of power, which is a large chunk of the National Electricity Market, which typically generates about 15 – 25 GW, depending on factors like the time of day and the time of year.

Wind and solar help reduce the burning of coal and gas, but I just can’t see wind and solar replacing coal and gas anytime soon.

Here are some recent figures.

The column chart below shows that over a 48-hour period that covered the period between 4am on May 22 and 4am on May 24, 2024, wind generated an average of just 4% of our electricity needs.

The (horizontal) bar chart shows the amount of electricity that was generated on May 23, between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Solar produced 0% of our electricity needs, wind 2%, while coal and gas 83%. We would have needed some 40 times as many wind turbines (as we already have) to keep the lights on.

The column chart below shows that over a 48-hour period that covered most of May 26 and May 27, 2024, wind generated an average of just 5% of our electricity needs.

The (horizontal) bar chart shows the amount of electricity that was generated on May 27, between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Solar produced 0% of our electricity needs, wind 3%, while coal and gas 81%. We would have needed some 25 times as many wind turbines to keep the lights on.

The reason for the low wind output was because of the fact that there was a huge high-pressure system centred over Australia’s south east which caused very calm conditions. The image is from the Bureau of Meteorology. These conditions lasted about a week and are not uncommon.

I don’t know how they’re going to close any more coal or gas plants any time soon. Many, many more wind turbines will have to be built around the countryside and connected with cables and other infrastructure. This is not easy.

By May 30, the wind picked up and the wind industry was generating about 30% of the needed supply.

I’m not sure how the vagaries of the wind can sustain a modern electricity-hungry economy!

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