The disbelief in the feasibility of wind turbines in our energy supply has already been discussed several times by Dwarsliggers. As time goes by, that prediction made appears to be increasingly confirmed. An observer sees an estimation error of at least a factor of two, which is explained below.
Recently, no bidder appeared for the new floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Scotland. However, the offers were still made under state support in the form of 'contracts for difference' (CfDs) that guarantee future minimum prices to wind turbine producers and hence not bearing the low to negative prices at moments of excess supply. When wholesale electricity prices are lower than the agreed price, the treasury adjusts the difference to the producer. This price was around £60/€69 per megawatt hour (MWh) and is apparently still far too low for investors who want more than half as much.
The claim of the still falling prices of wind energy and the claimed competitiveness with other sources is still a myth as GWPF indicates in the graph below based on the LCOE (Levelised Cost Of Energy - being a measure of the average net current generation costs over the lifetime ) cost derived from analyzing investments, and shows that the LCOE cost is around double the intervention price to be subsidized. The green band in the figure below shows what wind advocates claim to be with a decreasing cost structure over the time. In reality the analysis of recent individual investments shows a doubling cost compared to the claims.
A main cause lies with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which promotes wind power and provides politicians and media with incorrect information based on incorrect models, just like the IPCC does for the climate, instead of incorporating reality. Net Zero Watch explains this:
- The graph below shows the offshore operational expenditure (OPEX) as a function of seawater depth. The newest wind turbines are located at greater depths. It is clear that IRENA has a cost underestimate (green band) of 2 and more depending on whether the turbines are located in deeper water.
- The sum of operational and maintenance costs in the figure below shows a trend towards doubling over 20 years. Just the opposite of the story by green circles that wind energy becomes cheaper over time, has been contradicted by reality, even more subsea cable failure could derail global offshore wind projects and account for approximately 85% of insurance claims . It is not a surprise that wind turbine manufacturers are in dire straits and even new wind parks in the US and elsewhere are put on hold. It does not look good for the development of our future green energy supply, both in terms of quantity and security of supply as for customer cost.
- The capacity factor is a very important factor not only for the producer but also for the grid operator, it indicates how much energy is supplied in relation to what can be supplied at full load (nameplate energy), a kind of user efficiency.
The left graph below is from IRENA and the right graph is actual UK data. Notice a completely opposite trend over time between the two graphs. The right graph shows the reality with a decline of the order of 25% over age, but especially the very rapid deterioration of the newer types, the 5-6 MW types go from 45 to 25%, a loss of 40%, over 10 years, analogous to the newer 7-8 MW turbines, this indicates particularly rapid wear and tear, insufficiently compensated for by maintenance, maintenance costs of wind turbines are very high and difficult (think of repairs to blades at sea) and clearly heavily underestimated. This has resulted in increasing unreliability also reported in the literature.
However, the first IRENA graph below shows an increasing capacity factor for Europe, which would currently be around an average of 45% (a figure that media and politicians like to quote), while the next figure indicates that this is only valid for the newer turbines.
- Although the LCOE is commonly used, it is a poor metric for an analysis of supply-driven energy generation such as solar and wind, which is not always available, because the market is demand-driven (energy made available when it is needed) and you cannot compare apples to lemons. This means the need for a conversion from supply-driven to demand-driven by storage (batteries) or back-up systems (power stations). Due to these high additional costs, the LCOE cost is distorted by a factor of two or more. LCOE also only covers a limited part of the costs. The graph below provides as an example the exponentially increasing integration cost to bring the supplied power into the network, depending on the renewable (VRE) energy share, which is quite large and exceeds the LCOE cost from approximately 50-60% VRE penetration. The graph below shows that with 100% VRE by 2050 the EU is pursuing a mirage. This extreme cost evolution is wrongly used to justify the profitability of converting electricity into hydrogen, without saying that this will keep energy costs extremely high forever.
- A better metric for comparing energy systems is the energy return on investment: the EROI (ratio of energy generated to energy invested) as shown in the graph below. A buffered system means the transformation of the supply system into a demand system. The lower the EROI value, the more energy was required for the construction/investment, the reason for this lies in the high need for materials that, in addition to raw materials, also require a lot of labor, the latter in turn is no longer available for completing the new social demands, that increase with the standard of living and can no longer be met. Hence the standard of living is at stake.
The “economic threshold”, which expresses the effect of the standard of living on the minimum EROI that a society needs to maintain it in its current state.
The graph below is a good example by showing the evolution of the EROI for the UK from the Middle Ages (where, in addition to muscle power, only windmills and water power were available and no fossil energy), and indicates that the time we spent on just trying to survive has fallen from 70% during the Middle Ages to 10% today, the corresponding EROI increased from less than 5 fore the Middle Ages to approximately 30 today, thanks to the input of fossil energy for energy generation, starting with the use of coal followed by steam propulsion, gas and oil. In the literature, other authors indicate a lower required EROI value of 20-25. The author indicates fossil electricity generation on his graph, but not mentioning nuclear power, which with a value of 75 make an enormously larger contribution to the current standard of living, which many scientists and politicians apparently do not notice. In the UK, the current cost increase per family due to renewable is €977
Wind and sun as a 100% energy system with an EROI of <5 clearly takes us back to the Middle Ages, as the graph indicates, the current EROI is even lower than the Middle Ages due to the buffering cost. It is for Belgium incredibly short-sighted to ban nuclear energy with an EROI of 75, which could still somewhat hide to the public the enormous damage due to wind and sun on our energy system, this is economic suicide. A Belgian professor and ex- prime minister Eyskens put it succinctly “it is impossible to build a social paradise on an economic graveyard”. The UN and EU have still not clearly understood this fact and only the EU, US, Canada and Australia are following this fetish, all other countries are only after the 100 billion annual climate compensation promised in the Paris Accord to be paid by the same countries, as again will becoming clear at the upcoming COP28 of 28 Nov. until Dec. 12 in the UAE. The VAE is notably an association of oil states after all, it couldn't be more cynical.
Dr ir, Eric Blondeel