Last Sunday, it was rather stormy weather and wind mills produced a lot of electricity throughout the day as well as the night. Such events also inevitable mean that the media are singing the praise of how good wind energy is doing lately. When energy production from wind or solar is fine for a while, the media is jumping all over it. It was no different this time: Production of Belgian wind mills broke record yesterday (Dutch). If you seen one of those, you seen them all, exactly the same message was repeated all over the media. This is the whole message (translated from Dutch):
Yesterday, the Belgian wind mills produced a record amount of 39 GWh of electricity. Reported by APERe, a Walloon advocacy organization for renewable energy.
The Belgian wind mills (1,980 MW) covered the consumption of more than 4.1 million households, or 85 percent of the country.
This was due to the strong and steady winds.
The message came from APERe, an organization that had an almost similar message a year ago (Dutch). The same circumstances back then too: an autumn gale, a lot of electricity produced by windmills and no background was given. In the current message, 81% is replaced by 85% and 37 GWh by 39 GWh. The PR-guy of APERe and the media were seemingly a bit low on inspiration that day.
Just for the record, let me first state that the numbers given in the article are correct. I have no problems with them at such. All Belgian wind mills together have an installed capacity of around 1.980 MW, they produced almost 39 GWh on November 29 and this amount of energy will cover on average the energy demand of 4.1 million families and this is a tad less than 85% of the Belgian population.
That being said, the information being given is only half of the story. In this case, not being told is that this production for 85% of the population is exceptional. It is not the norm, it is a rare occasion. Also not told is that the energy demand of the families is only a fraction of the total demand (which was between 8,000 and 10,500 MW that day, while the theoretical demand for 85% of the population was about 1,600 MW).
Misleading is comparing two averages. As far as I know, wind doesn’t blow on average (sometimes it blows, sometimes it doesn’t) and families don’t demand energy on average (there will be for example very little demand from families after midnight).
If one doesn’t have a background in how electricity is produced (and this will not come from the media), then one would rather easily come to the conclusion that wind energy is gradually improving and can almost replace fossil fuels by now, just another 15%. Which of course isn’t the case in reality.
This is typical for alternative energy reporting. Alternative energy only comes in the news in a positive way, even if the situation is actually negative. None of such articles are about the intermittency, about the problems to integrate that intermittent energy on a continuous working grid, about the huge costs necessary to capture that “free” and “renewable” energy, about the fact that they disturb the energy market which makes the production of electricity by gas so expensive that producers will fall back to cheaper sources like coal, and so on. Yet all these thing are part of the reality of wind (and solar) energy, yet the media has an inability to report on this.
Let’s see what happened on November 29:
While it is definitely a good thing that there was a steady production of about 1,600 MW throughout the day, as I said previously, such a situation is quite an exception.
What would happen if there was some balance in the alternative energy reporting? For example, just look at the data of November 1:
Notice the difference in scale compared to the graph of November 29! The top of the November 1-graph would not even reach the first line on the y-axis of the November 29 graph! The lowest production was a whopping 0.83 MW at 14:15 (this corresponds to less than 2,200 families or 0.05% of the Belgian population). For the whole day there was an average production of 63.77 MW.
Isn’t this also some kind of record that was broken? Yet, did anyone noticed the news story on November 2 that “yesterday wind energy only produced enough electricity for less than 160,000 families”? Me neither. Or that “yesterday wind energy only produced enough electricity for 3% of the Belgian population”? Jeeeez, must have missed that one too.
Just for the fun of it, just consider the number of families powered by wind energy in November 2015. It went from a minimum of 2,200 in November 1 to a maximum of 4,200,000 in November 29. Did anyone heard a clarification in the media about which energy source(s) took over at minimum production by wind to accommodate for that remaining 4,197,800 families?
Well, that’s quite a coincidence, neither did I. 😉