It is likely that a great many people in the US have been led to believe that solar and wind play significant roles in supplying domestic energy. Further and even more incredibly they are led to believe that solar and wind will replace fossil fuels in the not too distant future. The Paris agreement demands that no fossil fuels be used after 2050
I am too old to make it to 2050, so I will not be around to see if no fossil fuels are being used at that time. If you make it to 2050, I will bet that fossil fuel will still be used.
The Energy Information Administration’s(EIA)**, chart on the primary energy sources for the year 2015 is shown below.
Petroleum, natural gas, coal, renewable energy, and nuclear electric power are primary sources of energy. Electricity is a secondary energy source that is generated from primary sources of energy.
Note that renewable energy is only 10% of total energy produced in the US. And of that 10%, solar is 6% and wind is 19%. Putting the solar and wind as a percent of the total energy consumed in the US has solar at 0.6% and wind at 1.9%. So, in 2015 only 2.5% of the US energy came from those two sources. Is this compatible with what you are learning from the media? And those two are the ones that the greenies are banking on to replace coal, natural gas and petroleum. And though it is counterintuitive, the warmers want to shut down the nuclear plants as well.
So if solar and wind are the future of the US, why is it that after 20 or so years of incentives, subsidies, research and Federal Loan guarantees are they still no more than a drop in the ocean,
The EIA says:
Why don’t we use more renewable energy?
In general, renewable energy is more expensive to produce and to use than fossil fuel energy. Favorable renewable resources are often located in remote areas, and it can be expensive to build power lines from the renewable energy sources to the cities that need the electricity. In addition, renewable sources are not always available:
- Clouds reduce electricity from solar power plants.
- Days with low wind reduce electricity from wind farms.
- Droughts reduce the water available for hydropower.
I think that is a riot that the EIA says that “clouds reduce electricity from solar power plants”. They seem to have forgotten that the sun only shines for 12 hours a day on average. But those devilish clouds are the problem. Really?
The media postings tell what the capacity of the solar and wind farm is in megawatts and about how many houses it can supply. But all of that is meaningless. Capacity is the measure of the most that these facilities can supply when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. The capacity factor is the measure of what its real delivery performance is. Solar and wind are in the EIA terminology “ not dispatchable”. That means that their supply is often too erratic to blend into the grids that supply the nation’s electricity. Yes, they do supply the girds at times. But only because sufficient fossil fuel produced backup power supplies can be brought in quickly when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining or dropped off quickly if the wind/sun comes back.
This not an issue only in the US. A report on European solar and wind energy sources show that over all they produce only 18% of their rated capacity. Thus the capacity factor is 18%. That is almost the inverse of what fossil fuel plants accomplish. Fossil fuel plants on average have a capacity factor of 87%. That is almost a factor of 5 difference.
Here are some quotes from a Principia Scientific posting titled “Failed Economics of Renewable Energy: The Facts.”
“By 2014 European Union countries had invested approximately €1.1 trillion, €1,100,000,000,000, in large scale Renewable Energy installations.
This has provided a nominal nameplate electrical generating capacity of about 216 Gigawatts, or nominally about ~22% of the total European generation needs of about 1000 Gigawatts.
The actual measured output by 2014 from data supplied by the Renewables Industry has been 38 Gigawatts or 3.8% of Europe’s electricity requirement, at a capacity factor of ~18% overall.
The report lists its view of why solar and wind are incompatible with the modern electricity distribution system in Western Europe.
The production of Renewable Energy is dependent on the seasons, local weather conditions and the rotation of the earth, day and night.
So, the Renewable Energy contribution to the electricity supply grid is inevitably erratic, intermittent and non-dispatchable. It is therefore much less useful than dispatchable sources of electricity, that can be engaged whenever necessary to match demand and maintain grid stability. That 3.8% Renewable Energy contribution to the grid is often not available when needed, for example Solar energy is rarely available at the peak times on winter afternoons. But obversely the mandatory use of Renewable electricity can cause major grid disruption if the Renewable contribution is suddenly over abundant.
The following chart shows the capacity factor for Western European nations individually plus the capacity factor for Total Europe.
At the end of 2014, Germany had the largest commitment to renewables at about 427 billion euros. The chart above shows that they also had the poorest capacity factor of 13.2%. And overall in Europe, the capacity factor is only 18%
Renewables are underperforming. Renewables are surviving on Federal and State Government loans, subsidies and mandated use. Short of some miracle invention that can store power inexpensively, they will never be more than an expensive sideshow.
** The EIA is a division of the US Department of Energy.