6 Reasons Why Nuke Fan Is Dead Wrong About Wind Energy
By Michael Goggin
The Energy Collective blog recently carried a column, Limitations of Unreliable Energy Sources, aka ‘Renewables,’ by Rod Adams, a longtime nuclear power advocate and critic of competing energy sources. In his column, Adams repeats a number of false statements about wind power.
Wind energy significantly reduces carbon emissions and does not noticeably reduce the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants on the utility system.
Recent analysis of the impact of wind on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants found that with renewable energy supplying 33 percent of the electricity, wind produces 99.8 percent of the expected fuel use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions savings after accounting for all cycling impacts, or savings of 1,190 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour (MWh) of wind. This analysis is based on real-world hourly emissions data for all fossil-fired power plants in the Western U.S, and puts to rest the fossil fuel industry myth that wind energy’s emissions savings are lower than expected.
Transmission pays for itself through economic and reliability benefits.
Numerous studies show that grid upgrades more than pay for themselves through the reliability and economic benefits they provide to consumers. The claim that a significant amount of wind energy is lost in transmission to consumers is false, as almost all line losses occur on low-voltage distribution lines, and thus apply to all energy sources evenly (page 30).
Wind energy has a lower integration cost than large conventional power plants.
Every wind integration study has found that there is more than enough flexibility on the power system today to accommodate very high levels of wind energy. In contrast, the need for reserves to accommodate the sudden failure of conventional power plants is far larger and many times more costly than for wind (see calculations in footnotes 6 and 7). Adding wind energy to the grid does not cause any need for new power plant capacity, and actually significantly reduces the total need for power plants.
Wind energy curtailment has only occurred due to localized transmission constraints (that are being eliminated), and never because the amount of wind output exceeded total demand on the power system.
Even the curtailment caused by localized transmission congestion is being eliminated as long-needed grid upgrades catch up with wind energy’s rapid growth, with curtailment cut in half from 2011 to 2012. (see page 44) Further declines are occurring in 2013, with curtailment on the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) system now approaching zero.
Onsite energy use is far higher at conventional power plants, on the order of 7 to 15 percent of power plant energy production.
In contrast, the figure for wind plants is typically far less than 1 percent. A comprehensive literature review of all peer-reviewed studies on the lifecycle carbon emissions impacts of all energy sources demonstrates that wind’s impact is a fraction of all conventional energy sources, and is also much lower than most other renewable energy sources.
Energy storage is not needed for wind energy.
The U.S. has added 60 gigawatts (GW) of wind, and Europe even more, with zero need to add energy storage. As explained above, there is plenty of flexibility on the existing power system. Interestingly, nearly all of the 22 GW of pumped hydro energy storage in the U.S. was added to help accommodate the inflexibility and additional reserve needs imposed by large nuclear power plants.
Finally, it seems strange to talk about the efficiency of different energy sources without discussing the fact that most fossil and nuclear power plants immediately waste 2/3 of the energy in their fuel as waste heat at the power plant, while most modern wind turbines capture around 50 percent of the energy available in their fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy’s data on the average efficiency of different types of power plants is here:
- Coal: 32.7 percent efficiency
- Gas: 41.9 percent efficiency
- Nuclear: 32.6 percent efficiency
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From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
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Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
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