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Author Topic: Wind Power  (Read 12271 times)

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    • Agelbert Truth AND Consequences
Re: Wind Power
« Reply #165 on: May 08, 2017, 05:36:07 pm »

REPORT: Part 1: Limits to Scale in Wind

May 8th, 2017 by John Farrell  

Full report available at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:  https://ilsr.org


For nearly a century, it’s been considered conventional wisdom that larger-scale power generation means lower-cost electricity. This wisdom is built on two basic theories of economies of scale.

Below is part one of our Is Bigger Best Report, a report released in September 2016. Conventional wisdom suggests the biggest wind and solar power plants will be cheapest, but where they deliver power, and who will own them, matters more. Be sure to read parts two and three in the next week.

First, there’s the simple fact that larger volume components of power plants provide more usable space than the related materials costs. This simple illustration explains. The box on the left has a volume of 1x1x1 = 1 cubic foot. To assemble the box, you need 6 square pieces of material, each with an area of 1, for a total of 6 square feet. The box on the right has a volume of 2x2x2 = 8 cubic feet. The larger box can be assembled of 6 square pieces, each with an area of 2×2 = 4 square feet, for a total of 24 square feet. We’ve increased the volume of our container 8-fold, with only a 4-fold increase in material costs.

As power plants became bigger in the first half of the 20th century, they captured this economy of scale in materials.

The second basic theory is that the average cost of a product decreases the more you make of it. This takes into account the scale economies in material costs (in building the factories), but also the notion that some overhead costs (such as annual registration fees, insurance, etc) are fixed or grow more slowly than the total output of a business.

Both of these theories were well supported by data in the early years of electricity generation in the 1900s, with coal, oil, and then nuclear power plants producing lower cost power from larger sized plants. The advantage to size also lent credence to the conventional wisdom of monopoly utilities. Big power plants required large amounts of capital, and capital markets offered lower interest rates to companies that did not have the risk of competition for their ever­-larger power plants.

But after decades of success, the “bigger-is­-better” mantra stopped generating returns on investment, nearly 50 years ago. In super­-large fossil fuel power plants, specialized equipment required excessively high temperatures and special materials that were more expensive than the marginal gains in efficiency. This graphic, from a book called Power Loss, illustrates the plateauing of power plant efficiency in the mid­-1960s, as challenges in operating giant power plants offset their economies of scale.

The plateau in plant efficiency from technical challenges was accompanied by a leveling off in the cost reductions of building bigger. Bigger power plants, evidence suggested, incurred higher indirect costs, such as much longer construction time. In the 1970s in particular, high inflation and other factors made up as much as 60% of a power plant’s cost, and made delay costly.

Despite the evidence about limits to scale economies, the conventional wisdom that bigger is better has persisted into the renewable energy power industry. It’s particularly ironic, since the costly ever­-bigger power plants of the 1970s led Congress to pass the 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), the federal law that opened the door to renewable energy alternatives to conventional power plants. This lesson seems lost on many observers of the renewable energy industry.

Renewable Energy Economies of Scale

The economies of scale of renewable energy take three forms, slightly different than those for fossil fuels:

1.The first is similar, that larger solar or wind power plants will produce less costly power than smaller ones, given a similar level of sunshine or wind.

2.The second suggests that renewable electricity is best produced in areas of the highest resource quality, and then transmitted long-distance to users.

3.The third is an assertion that the road to the most renewable energy the most quickly is via the largest power plants.

Full article with several eye opening charts and explanatory graphics:  


John Farrell is the Director of Democratic Energy at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and widely known as the guru of distributed energy.

John is best known for his vivid illustrations of the economic and environmental benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy.

He’s the author of Energy Self-Reliant States, a state-by-state atlas of renewable energy potential highlighted in the New York Times,  showing that most states don’t need to look outside their borders to meet their electricity needs.  He’s also written extensively on the economic advantages of Democratizing the Electricity System, published a rich interactive map on solar grid parity, and polished the policies (like Minnesota’s solar energy standard) necessary to support locally owned renewable energy development.


Agelbert NOTE: John makes a valid case for SMALL Renewable Energy projects by showing the increased transmission cost limitations of large Renewable Energy projects. That is, when you are harvesting a huge amount of energy, it has to be sent hither and yon to reach everybody that wants it. Yes, the transmission costs increase with distance. However, that is because the infrastructure for moving massive amounts of energy over high voltage transmission corridors specifically designed to do just that has not been built up yet. They haven't built that greased lightning grid simply because the fossil fuel industry did not need it with their polluting pigs scattered all over the country (the same with nuclear power pigs too!).

But really, even with the present increased costs of sending energy over wires at greater distances, there is NO WAY sending energy in liquid form on gasoline tankers or coal trains is anywhere near as efficient AND cheap as sending energy through wires.

Consequently, both small and large Renewable Energy projects will continue to outcompete polluting fossil fuels and nuclear power even before our advanced national high voltage transmission grid infrastructure is built.

The polluters no longer have absolutely any reason for claiming they have a "competitive" energy product. The only way polluters can "compete" now is by getting Trump to declare the Orwellian Mindfork that "Renewable Energy threatens National polluter profit Security" and making it "illegal" for the grid AND the transportation sector to have more than 50% (or whatever percentage the polluters need to limit clean energy growth) Renewable Energy Penetration.

We need polluters like a dog needs to be covered with ticks slowly killing it. Either we get rid of polluters or perish from pollution.

Jens Stubbe  • 6 hours ago   

The graph over the catastrophic low efficiency in the thermal power plant is really scary. In Denmark the average external efficiency is 45% electric and nearly 40% thermal and the flue gases are cleansed and used or asphalt and cement and a good proportion of the CO2 is used for gypsum production. Even so we out phase coal and will be done by 2023.

As for the size limitations for wind power there is a square cube rule that defines that every time you double capacity you square cube the weight. So far clever engineering has defied this rule. A 9MW nacelle is very close in weight to a 2,3MW nacelle.

The roadmap for continued weight drop looks really good and we could potentially see several times bigger turbines that weigh less than several times smaller simply due to ingenuity.

Currently 17% of the global coal fiber production is consumed by the wind power industry but this is expected to increase to 65% by 2020.

Wind power is already the largest purchaser of several raw materials and is the driving force behind technology development that benefit aerospace, aviation, formula 1, automotive and so on. So apart from being an important contributor to a sustainable future wind power is also cross fertilizing advances in other fields of engineering.

The next big threshold for RE in general and wind power in particular is the P2G cost point. For solar the threshold will demand about 50% cost decrease and for offshore wind about 66%.

Once those thresholds have been met the size of wind power plants and solar power plants will suddenly go up to a level never seen before. Innogy sees Methanol as the energy carrier of the future whereas other sees a plethora of alternative synthetic carriers.

In the North Sea the offshore wind potential is sufficient to power the European continent including electrifying the entire transport sector.

Both MHI Vestas and Siemens Wind power are far advanced with the next generation larger turbines. Siemens Wind power have the capacity to build a 8MW turbine every day and MHI Vestas is catching up rapidly.

At sea the most important gains with scale is the reduced service and maintenance as well as lower cost of installation.

As for the ownership structure we are heading straight towards ever bigger project that leaves no room for smaller projects. Part of this trend is a deliberate strategy where subsidies was only available for large consortia. On the positive side Shell, Statoil and several large utilities are now active in the business.

Leges         Sine    Moribus     Vanae   
if it has not works, is dead, being alone.


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