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Resource Documents: Impacts (121 items)

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Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.


Date added:  September 13, 2017
WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Large-Scale Mitigation Experiment to Reduce Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

Author:  Baerwald, Erin; Edworthy, Jason; Barclay, Robert; and Holder, Matt

ABSTRACT: Until large numbers of bat fatalities began to be reported at certain North American wind energy facilities, wildlife concerns regarding wind energy focused primarily on bird fatalities. Due in part to mitigation to reduce bird fatalities, bat fatalities now outnumber those of birds. To test one mitigation option aimed at reducing bat fatalities at wind energy facilities, we altered the operational parameters of 21 turbines at a site with high bat fatalities in southwestern Alberta, Canada, during the peak fatality period. By altering when turbine rotors begin turning in low winds, either by changing the wind-speed trigger at which the turbine rotors are allowed to begin turning or by altering blade angles to reduce rotor speed, blades were near motionless in low wind speeds, which resulted in a significant reduction in bat fatalities (by 60.0% or 57.5%, respectively). Although these are promising mitigation techniques, further experiments are needed to assess costs and benefits at other locations.

Erin F. Baerwald and Robert M. R. Barclay, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary
Jason Edworthy and Matt Holder, Transalta Wind, Calgary, Canada

Journal of Wildlife Management 73(7):1077–1081; 2009
DOI: 10.2193/2008-233

Download original document: “A Large-Scale Mitigation Experiment to Reduce Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

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Date added:  September 12, 2017
Economics, Germany, GridPrint storyE-mail story

Hidden consequences of intermittent electricity production

Author:  Ongena, Jozef; István Markó; Koch, Raymond; and Debeil, Anne

If the aim is to decarbonize the electricity sector and phase out nuclear power, then renewable energy remains as the only source of electricity. As wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) are a major fraction (in Germany about 65% of the total renewable electricity production) one then must cope with strong intermittency. The consequences show up most prominently during dark and cloudy periods without wind.

The reality of this last statement is illustrated in Fig. 1, showing the evolution of the electricity production in Germany for January 2017. Due to lack of wind and sunshine in the second half of January most of the German electricity during that whole period was produced by conventional power sources – lignite, coal, gas and nuclear power. On the morning of the 24th of January 2017 a nearly total collapse of the German electricity supply took place. It could have had consequences throughout Europe and was only avoided by putting into operation all possible fossil power plants in Germany, including the oldest and dirtiest ones.

Fig. 1: Electrical power consumption and production in Germany (in MW) by various sources for January 2017: grid load (brown), sum of onshore and offshore wind (blue), solar PV (yellow), installed iRES [intermittent renewable energy sources] capacity (light green background color). Although the iRES capacity is exceeding the grid load, it could only provide a fraction of the German electrical power needs during this dark period without sufficient wind and most of the power was produced by conventional power sources (fossil and nuclear). Especially the period 16-25 January 2017 demonstrates the need for large additional backup power systems (that are evidently non-renewable) or storage.

This graph also leaves no doubt about the storage problem. During the 10 days between 16 and 25 January, equivalent to 240h, the difference between the iRES produced electrical power and the electrical power needs of Germany varied between 50 and 60GW, i.e. between 12000 and 14400 GWh of electrical energy was missing. German electrical storage systems could not have supplied this large amount of energy, as the total storage capacity in Germany is about 40GWh (mainly hydro). The missing electrical energy represents thus 300-360 times the German electrical storage capacity. Including also the 12 dark and wind still days in December 2016, the missing energy would increase to about 32TWh, i.e. about 800 times the currently existing storage capacity in Germany. Note that such long low iRES power production intervals are not an exception; similarly, long periods of low combined solar PV and wind power production were observed regularly in the past years, not only in Germany but in several EU countries and predominantly simultaneously, see also below. …

The electricity production from renewable systems is characterized by a low capacity factor. In Germany with its large fleet of wind and solar PV systems, this is ~15%, resulting from ~11% for solar PV and ~18% for wind (sum of offshore and onshore wind). The consequences are shown in Fig. 2, documenting the evolution in Germany of the installed capacity and power production from solar PV and wind; also indicated are the minimum and maximum power load of the grid. It is clear (i) that although the iRES installed capacity is huge (exceeding at the moment already the maximum power load on the German grid), its contribution to the German electrical energy needs is limited and (ii) that the peaks of the iRES production increasingly cross the lines of minimum load, thus leading to more and more excess production. For the moment export to neighboring countries is still a solution. But this will have to change when the iRES production in other EU countries also will increase in the near future.

Fig. 2: Electrical power production (in GW) by wind (blue) and the sum of solar PV and wind (red) compared with maximum and miminum grid load. As the installed renewable capacity increases, the minimum grid load is increasingly exceeded, leading to overcapacity and export of surplus energy, often at negative prices. …

Export of electricity is needed not only on days with a large iRES power production, but paradoxically also on days with a minimal iRES power production. Indeed, on such days the backup production is maximal and cannot be easily regulated in the short time intervals, which characterize the intermittency of the renewable power from sun and wind. At low iRES production most of the iRES power serves only to increase the export (in several cases at negative prices) as illustrated in Figs. 4a and b and discussed in detail in D. Ahlborn, H. Jacobi, World of Mining, Surface and Underground 68, 2-6 (2016). Thus it comes as no surprise that there is a clear correlation between iRES power production (low or high) and export of electricity from Germany, as illustrated in Fig. 4b. This power is not totally lost, as it can help other countries to reduce their CO₂ output. However, the German taxpayer pays for this, and such a solution can only be temporary. Contrary to what one would expect, these massive and rather unpredictable imports are not really welcomed in the concerned neighboring countries as (i) local power plants have to reduce or shut down, reducing their profitability, and (ii) it increasingly causes overloads in the national grids of those countries. For such reasons Poland and the Czech Republic are installing phase shift transformers at their borders (paid by Germany) to reflect any dangerously high excess electrical energy imports back to Germany.

Fig. 4a: Example of the time evolution of iRES renewable electricity production during a dark and wind still period and compared to the electricity export for Germany (16-25 Jan 2017)

Fig. 4b: Hourly correlation between electricity production from renewable sources (wind + PV) and electricity export in Germany (February 2015)

These exports can only be a temporary solution because the same weather patterns often cover large surfaces of Europe. The consequence thereof is illustrated in Fig. 5, showing a comparison between the instantaneous wind power production from Germany and the sum of the wind production in 15 other EU countries: except for Spain, the correlation in the electricity production between the different countries is clearly visible. Excess wind power in Germany signifies thus also excess wind power in neighbouring countries. The difference in the timing of the maxima and minima in wind production in Spain compared to the rest of Europe, can help to average the fluctuations to a certain, albeit limited extent. One could wonder if the averaging effect of solar photovoltaic power could contribute. In fact, such an effect is nearly absent, as shown by a recent study. The same study shows that if one would use a EU wide 100% iRES electrical network, able to transport excess electrical energy production between the various European countries, typical German grid fluctuations could be reduced by 35% and the maximal storage capacity by 28% (with a 30% fluctuation level on those numbers due the varying weather conditions from year to year). Interconnector lines with a capacity of tens to hundreds of GW will then be needed throughout Europe. The export (and storage) problem can thus indeed be somewhat reduced but they will be far from totally eliminated. Other solutions to avoid the enormous excess energy will have to be found.

Fig. 5: Instantaneous wind power production in MW in Germany (dark blue) compared to the wind power production from 15 EU countries (various colors), illustrating the close correlation between wind power Europe wide. This graph clearly shows consequences for export of excess intermittent electrical power between EU countries in the future, and the very limited extent of possible ‘averaging’ of excesses throughout Europe. …

A large fraction of the produced iRES power in Germany is exported. The export was nearly stable and negligible in the years before the massive introduction of renewable power and has increased ever since, with a rapid increase in the last 5 years up to about 25% of the produced renewable energy or about 55TWh (Fig. 8). The exported energy matches the yearly produced photovoltaic energy or 2/3 of the produced wind power. However, export of excess energy can only be temporary if renewable energy is to be deployed in all EU countries, given the strong correlation between the weather in neighboring countries as already discussed in Section 2.

Fig. 8. Evolution of the total iRES electrical energy production and net electrical energy export (in TWh) over the last 26 years in Germany. The total photovoltaic production (dotted orange curve) or 66% of the total wind energy production (dashed blue curve) follows remarkably close the export curve.

Go to original document: “Hidden consequences of intermittent electricity production

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Date added:  September 11, 2017
Emissions, GridPrint storyE-mail story

How does intermittent wind power interact with controllable power?

Author:  Deroover, Marc

This article considers a typical load supplied by a set of identical controllable units. More and more wind power is then added to the production system, and the simulation shows how the system behaves and how the wind power is used.

The analysis considers only the energy and power balances at system level, using the Load Duration Curve representation of the load. No consideration is given to the network constraints, power prices and other similar topics. It is basically a theoretical exercise that uses simple hypothesis and modelling techniques to simulate the injection of intermittent power into a classical thermal system, and tries to illustrate what intermittent power is, how it works and what are its intrinsic limitations.

When a wind turbine begins to produce power, some running mirror controllable unit must reduce its output: this is backdown power. The amount of reduced power must remain ready to be produced again if the wind stops blowing: this is backup power. The wind turbine is so tightly coupled with its mirror controllable unit that from the point of view of the network operator they cannot be treated separately. Using this approach, it is possible to describe the way the wind power is inserted into the system, and to calculate the expected resulting output of the various units.

The model shows that the intermittent power is not “added” to the controllable power but is rather “merged” with it, partly replacing the controllable power and energy by its own. It explains why installation of wind power could not result in a reduction of installed conventional power. It describes how wind power destroys the power system by forcing controllable units to run in base. It shows the limits on installed wind power, and that these limits are mainly related to the availability of storage capacity. It asserts that the lack of storage capacity becomes critical when the total installed wind power exceeds some identified thresholds. Finally it describes how we could quantify the savings of CO₂ emissions due to wind power – and shows that there are probably no savings at all.

How does intermittent wind power interact with controllable power? The Dual IC model

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Date added:  September 9, 2017
Environment, U.S.Print storyE-mail story

Footprint of Energy: Land Use of U.S. Electricity Production

Author:  Stevens, Landon

Modern society requires a tremendous amount of electricity to function, and one of this generation’s greatest challenges is generating and distributing energy efficiently. Electricity generation is energy intensive, and each source leaves its own environmental and ecological footprint. Although many studies have considered how electricity generation impacts other aspects of the environment, few have looked specifically at how much land different energy sources require.

This report considers the various direct and indirect land requirements for coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar electricity generation in the United States in 2015. For each source, it approximates the land used during resource production, by energy plants, for transport and transmission, and to store waste materials. Both one-time and continuous land-use requirements are considered. Land is measured in acres and the final assessment is given in acres per megawatt.

Specifically, this report finds that coal, natural gas, and nuclear power all feature the smallest physical footprint: about 12.5 acres per megawatt produced. Solar and wind are much more land-intensive technologies, using 43.5 and 70.6 acres per megawatt, respectively. Hydroelectricity generated by large dams has a significantly larger footprint than any other generation technology, using 315.2 acres per megawatt.

While this report does not attempt to comprehensively quantify land requirements across the entire production and distribution chain, it does cover major land components and offers a valuable starting point to further compare various energy sources and facilitates a deeper conversation surrounding the necessary trade-offs when crafting energy policy.

June 2017, Strata

Download original document: “The Footprint of Energy: Land Use of U.S. Electricity Production

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