(Half of the) information about wind energy

Offshore wind energy flier

Last weekend I stayed in Ostend, a Belgian coastal city. Just a relaxing weekend at the coast. First thing on my list was a visit to the Tourist Office for some touristic information. Paint my surprise when I found a brochure of the Belgian Offshore Platform (BOP) tittled “Offshore wind – A useful necessity”, right between the touristic fliers.

Inside the flier, the usual thoughtless and often repeated talk like “fight against climate change”, “security of supply” (really?!?!), “leading position”,… There also were some general figures about the 8 Belgian wind farms by 2020. Some of the figures:

Total investment
€8 billion for development and construction

When I first read this, I thought: “8 billion euro, that is much less than I expected”. But looking at it more carefully, I realized that this is the investment cost of the companies, not the cost to society. The cost to society includes things like:

  • Subsidies: CREG calculated for (the then) 7 farms 15.6 billion subsidies. For 8 farms that will probably a couple billions more. That is more than double what is presented
  • Cost for connecting the wind mills to the grid on main land. This is not cheap because of the distance from the coast, an additional 800,000 euro.
  • the cost of backup power or balancing

Next is capacity:

Total capacity
2,200 MW of which, at the beginning of 2014, 712 MW is already operational

That is only a capacity similar to that of two nuclear plants. For around 20 billion euro and then it is not even producing electricity in a continuous way.

Total of avoided CO2 emissions
3,160,000 tons/year

Probably without taking into account the backup needed when the wind doesn’t blow (much) or blows too much.

Total annual production
8 TWh = 10% of the total consumption of electricity in Belgium or equals 50% of the total annual domestic consumption of electricity.

10% of the total electricity consumption in Belgium for 2020, that is something I don’t really believe. The 712 MW at the beginning of 2014 was good for less than 2%. So for three times more, 10% would probably be somewhat optimistic.

By the way, that 8 TWh is the average production. There is no guarantee that much energy is produced when consumption is high or less energy is produced when there is less need for it.

Concluding, it seems once again that nothing is said about the very nature of wind energy and its consequences. What is it with alternative energy communication that one side is being hidden?


2 thoughts on “(Half of the) information about wind energy

  1. poitsplace

    I used to be really into the delusion of renewables. Its a fascinating perversion of rational thought. Its a simple self deception for most people. They assume that we need to switch energy sources immediately and that even if we don’t, fossil fuels will run out anyway.

    But then they propose renewable electrical generation and ignore the elephant in the room…there is enough nuclear fuel to power the planet’s 7 billion people at US per capita energy consumption (that’s not electrical…that’s the 3X larger figure of all energy) for 10000 years. And that’s just using already available fission technologies. Once you realize that, you realize that sustainability isn’t something we’d be handing off to our children or children’s children…ITS 400 GENERATIONS AWAY!

    Now people might say “but nuclear isn’t good for peaking”…and they’d be right. But compare it to renewables where you’d not only need to buffer hourly or daily load but even seasonal loads…which means “storage” of hundreds of terawatt hours. While with a nuclear setup, you simply build a plant large enough to provide a little more than the peak seasonal energy requirement…and then cycle your ‘tiny’ storage (less than 1/10 the size required for renewables) charging it during low demand, discharging during peak. AND…in a worst case scenario the plant would still provide about 75% of peak demand instead of the near 0% level from a day of bad weather during a bad season.

    And the messed up thing is, that’s not really the reason to flat out give up on things like wind and solar thermal. The real reason is its so incredibly impractical…because wind energy by its self, ignoring the gigantic backup power problem, would require 5X the materials, labor, and maintenance of nuclear. And with solar-thermal it’s actually 10X. And all those systems need to be replaced twice as often. So its all nothing but BS from top to bottom.

    The reality is that if the greens ever truly cared about CO2, they’d be BEGGING for nuclear and fracking…fracking for an easy, immediate shift that cut CO2 emissions in half…then for use in peaking plants..and nuclear to provide base load.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      I have been there also. Just a couple years ago I still believed that wind and solar were the only way forward and could replace other sources without a problem, just the right policies will do.

      I think it has to do with how it is painted in the media. They show it as if they are the same as other power sources and hide the inconvenient consequences. It is no wonder people think alternative energy sources are exactly the same as traditional energy sources, only cleaner.

      To me, it only slowly started to dawn on me when I started to realize how the power grid worked and more specifically what would happen when an intermittent energy source is being put on a continuously working grid.

      In the end it left me a bit embarrassed because with the background I had, I should have known this. Yet, as so many, I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.



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