Flemish (onshore) windmills have almost the same capacity as a nuclear reactor

The journalists of our beloved Flemish media seem to go ballistic lately. Yesterday there was the item in the VTM news about the current “drought” that was “direct result of climate change”. Today the VRT news felt it had to compete with that and went full stupid in an article with the sensational title:

Flemish windmills have almost the same capacity as a nuclear reactor

vrt news 20161228 windmil

Apparently the onshore windmills in Flandres have a total capacity of 920 MW, which is only slightly below the capacity of (some of) our nuclear turbines (at somewhat above 1,000 MW).


I am afraid that I have to spoil that party…

The article gives the impression that those onshore wind turbines could somehow replace such a nuclear turbine. There is however a big difference between the two.

While a nuclear turbine of 920 MW delivers power according to its capacity on an almost continuous basis, this is not the case for wind turbines. Not even close. The average production for onshore wind is (from memory) somewhere around 20% of its installed capacity. So that 920 MW installed wind capacity will produce on average the same power as a 184 MW turbine.

Let’s just have a look at the numbers. At the elia website one can find the production of our (onshore and offshore) wind farms. This is the production of those onshore wind farms today:

onshore wind BE 20161228

The monitored capacity at the elia site is currently at 1,248.71 MW, so apparently most of the onshore turbines are located in Flandres. But look very carefully at the scale of the Y-axis. Production was highest at midnight at … around 88 MW.

88 MW out of 1,248,71 MW?!?! That is only 7% of the installed capacity.

At its highest level today.

The lowest value today was this morning around 6:00 at 26.29 MW. That is a tad more than 2% to you and me.

I don’t know any nuclear turbine with a capacity of 920 MW that has such horrible production figures.

But, but, don’t we have offshore turbines as well? The wind always blows at sea, doesn’t it? Well, maybe:

offshore wind BE_20161228

The highest value was just before noon, but clocks at a tad below 65 MW (out of 712MW → 9%) and the minimum was conveniently rounded to 0 by elia.

Installed capacity is not the same as production. Why is that so incredibly hard to understand for journalists?


13 thoughts on “Flemish (onshore) windmills have almost the same capacity as a nuclear reactor

  1. oldbrew

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    TYV says: ‘Installed capacity is not the same as production. Why is that so incredibly hard to understand for journalists?’

    Because such realities would ruin their story perhaps? Either that or they are not up to their jobs.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Maybe neither. There are many other possibilities.

      I don’t think the journalist who wrote the article is “green”. I have the impression she is a student communication & media or just finished university. I didn’t find any articles from her about technology. So my guess is that she doesn’t know the difference between capacity and output, therefor doesn’t realize that her comparison of the two is inappropriate. Plus, other journalists do exactly the same.

      Not so long ago, I trusted that the people who knew more about it than me, were on the case. I just assumed that technology was advanced enough that 1 MW renewable energy replaced 1 MW energy of conventional power sources. Many people believe just that and stories like this re-enforce that belief.

      But when I started thinking about how our grid works in practice, that belief suddenly didn’t make much sense anymore.


  2. Saighdear

    Well now, HOW OFTEN has that been said about Journalists. I live and work in the Agri / Engineering world. How often I could EXPLODE when I hear the rubbish trotted out
    For instance, TODAY BBC Breakfast SW England Ref Mild wet summers – so much grass growing… Making HAY in the implied wet weather, Grass so long is no good for Birds n bees – sounds like wrong kind of wilderness .. all courtesy of National Trust ….
    Seems to me that instead of REPORTING on issues, they try and Manufacture the stories


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      I also have that question of “how many times this has to be explained”. On the other hand, I been like that before and I am pretty sure that I was not open for having an understanding about it back then. I think it is hard to explain, especially with f.e. the media portraying the issue as above. That mental picture is very hard to break through.


  3. manicbeancounter

    If the weather in Flanders was anything like the weather in England, then there is another reason for not relying on wind power. Here the lack of wind was accompanied by lower than average temperatures – between -3C and +3C. In fact the 28th December was one of the coldest days of the year. As many people are on holiday domestic power demand is much higher than average. Lack of wind on the coldest days of the year is a common feature of the Northern European climate.
    The disadvantage of nuclear power is that it is difficult to vary the power output to match fluctuations in demand over the course of the day. So a combination of nuclear and wind power will lead to a combination of wasted electricity and massive over capacity / power blackouts.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      The weather here was about the same in the beginning of the month. Later temperatures went up a bit and is now going back down again.

      That was also my idea when I heard that our current “drought” was caused by a high pressure system over the European continent. If it is really true that this was a direct result of climate change and we might experience more periods with hardly any wind in winter, then wind energy in our country is a very bad idea.


  4. gallopingcamel

    I have fond memories of living in Schiedam at 8 meters below mean sea level. Thank goodness the Dutch produce genever on such a vast scale so you don’t care what the electricity costs.


  5. John PAK (au)

    1) At school journalists usually drop maths at 16 and focus on arts subjects so they are usually not the numeric type.
    2) Their editors are not neutral and impartial but have an editorial line or adjenda to adhere to.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      I agree.

      1. The journalist who wrote this article was trained in communication & media and probably doesn’t know the difference between installed capacity and output
      2. VRT is the Flemish public radio/television and is the least reliable of the Flemish media.


  6. ferdberple

    The only good news is that the guaranteed price paid to wind producers won’t bankrupt consumers anytime soon so long as production is so low. The bad news is that current green taxes on power bills are only a very small fraction of what they will eventually grow to if green power moves from less than 10% to 100% of production. Green taxes may increase by 20 times current levels, a 2000% increase in taxes. Hard to see how the government will pay for green power if everyone is bankrupt.


  7. Pingback: Flemish (onshore) windmills have almost the same capacity as a nuclear reactor — Trust, yet verify – Site Title

  8. Pingback: Flemish (onshore) windmills have almost the same capacity as a nuclear reactor | Tallbloke’s Talkshop | Cranky Old Crow

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