Resource Documents — latest additions
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.
Author: Temple, James
A pair of 500-foot smokestacks rise from a natural-gas power plant on the harbor of Moss Landing, California, casting an industrial pall over the pretty seaside town.
If state regulators sign off, however, it could be the site of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery project by late 2020, helping to balance fluctuating wind and solar energy on the California grid.
The 300-megawatt facility is one of four giant lithium-ion storage projects that Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility, asked the California Public Utilities Commission to approve in late June. Collectively, they would add enough storage capacity to the grid to supply about 2,700 homes for a month (or to store about 0.0009 percent of the electricity the state uses each year).
The California projects are among a growing number of efforts around the world, including Tesla’s 100-megawatt battery array in South Australia, to build ever larger lithium-ion storage systems as prices decline and renewable generation increases. They’re fueling growing optimism that these giant batteries will allow wind and solar power to displace a growing share of fossil-fuel plants.
But there’s a problem with this rosy scenario. These batteries are far too expensive and don’t last nearly long enough, limiting the role they can play on the grid, experts say. If we plan to rely on them for massive amounts of storage as more renewables come online—rather than turning to a broader mix of low-carbon sources like nuclear and natural gas with carbon capture technology—we could be headed down a dangerously unaffordable path.
Today’s battery storage technology works best in a limited role, as a substitute for “peaking” power plants, according to a 2016 analysis by researchers at MIT and Argonne National Lab. These are smaller facilities, frequently fueled by natural gas today, that can afford to operate infrequently, firing up quickly when prices and demand are high.
Lithium-ion batteries could compete economically with these natural-gas peakers within the next five years, says Marco Ferrara, a cofounder of Form Energy, an MIT spinout developing grid storage batteries.
“The gas peaker business is pretty close to ending, and lithium-ion is a great replacement,” he says.
This peaker role is precisely the one that most of the new and forthcoming lithium-ion battery projects are designed to fill. Indeed, the California storage projects could eventually replace three natural-gas facilities in the region, two of which are peaker plants.
But much beyond this role, batteries run into real problems. The authors of the 2016 study found steeply diminishing returns when a lot of battery storage is added to the grid. They concluded that coupling battery storage with renewable plants is a “weak substitute” for large, flexible coal or natural-gas combined-cycle plants, the type that can be tapped at any time, run continuously, and vary output levels to meet shifting demand throughout the day.
Not only is lithium-ion technology too expensive for this role, but limited battery life means it’s not well suited to filling gaps during the days, weeks, and even months when wind and solar generation flags.
This problem is particularly acute in California, where both wind and solar fall off precipitously during the fall and winter months. Here’s what the seasonal pattern looks like:
This leads to a critical problem: when renewables reach high levels on the grid, you need far, far more wind and solar plants to crank out enough excess power during peak times to keep the grid operating through those long seasonal dips, says Jesse Jenkins, a coauthor of the study and an energy systems researcher. That, in turn, requires banks upon banks of batteries that can store it all away until it’s needed.
And that ends up being astronomically expensive.
There are issues California can’t afford to ignore for long. The state is already on track to get 50 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2020, and the legislature is once again considering a bill that would require it to reach 100 percent by 2045. To complicate things, regulators voted in January to close the state’s last nuclear plant, a carbon-free source that provides 24 percent of PG&E’s energy. That will leave California heavily reliant on renewable sources to meet its goals.
The Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based energy policy think tank, recently found that reaching the 80 percent mark for renewables in California would mean massive amounts of surplus generation during the summer months, requiring 9.6 million megawatt-hours of energy storage. Achieving 100 percent would require 36.3 million.
The state currently has 150,000 megawatt-hours of energy storage in total. (That’s mainly pumped hydroelectric storage, with a small share of batteries.)
Building the level of renewable generation and storage necessary to reach the state’s goals would drive up costs exponentially, from $49 per megawatt-hour of generation at 50 percent to $1,612 at 100 percent.
And that’s assuming lithium-ion batteries will cost roughly a third what they do now.
“The system becomes completely dominated by the cost of storage,” says Steve Brick, a senior advisor for the Clean Air Task Force. “You build this enormous storage machine that you fill up by midyear and then just dissipate it. It’s a massive capital investment that gets utilized very little.”
These forces would dramatically increase electricity costs for consumers.
“You have to pause and ask yourself: ‘Is there any way the public would stand for that?’” Brick says.
Similarly, a study earlier this year in Energy & Environmental Science found that meeting 80 percent of US electricity demand with wind and solar would require either a nationwide high-speed transmission system, which can balance renewable generation over hundreds of miles, or 12 hours of electricity storage for the whole system (see “Relying on renewables alone significantly inflates the cost of overhauling energy”).
At current prices, a battery storage system of that size would cost more than $2.5 trillion.
A scary price tag
Of course, cheaper and better grid storage is possible, and researchers and startups are exploring various possibilities. Form Energy, which recently secured funding from Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is trying to develop aqueous sulfur flow batteries with far longer duration, at a fifth the cost where lithium-ion batteries are likely to land.
Ferrara’s modeling has found that such a battery could make it possible for renewables to provide 90 percent of electricity needs for most grids, for just marginally higher costs than today’s.
But it’s dangerous to bank on those kinds of battery breakthroughs—and even if Form Energy or some other company does pull it off, costs would still rise exponentially beyond the 90 percent threshold, Ferrara says.
“The risk,” Jenkins says, “is we drive up the cost of deep decarbonization in the power sector to the point where the public decides it’s simply unaffordable to continue toward zero carbon.”
James Temple, Senior Editor, Energy
I am the senior editor for energy at MIT Technology Review. I’m focused on renewable energy and the use of technology to combat climate change. Previously, I was a senior director at the Verge, deputy managing editor at Recode, and columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. When I’m not writing about energy and climate change, I’m often hiking with my dog or shooting video of California landscapes.
Author: Ramirez-Tejeda, Katerin; et al.
Abstract: Finding ways to manage the waste from the expected high number of wind turbine blades in need of disposal is crucial to harvest wind energy in a truly sustainable manner. Landfilling is the most cost-effective disposal method in the United States, but it imposes significant environmental impacts. Thermal, mechanical, and chemical processes allow for some energy and/or material recovery, but they also carry potential negative externalities. This article explores the main economic and environmental issues with various wind turbine blade disposal methods. We argue for the necessity of policy intervention that encourages industry to develop better technologies to make wind turbine blade disposal sustainable, both environmentally and economically. We present some of the technological initiatives being researched, such as the use of bio-derived resins and thermoplastic composites in the manufacturing process of the blades.
Globally, more than seventy thousand wind turbine blades were deployed in 2012 and there were 433 gigawatts (GW) of wind installed capacity worldwide at the end of 2015. Moreover, the United States’ installed wind power capacity will need to increase from 74GWto 300GW to achieve its 20% wind production goal by 2030. To meet the increasing demand, not only are more blades being manufactured, but also blades of up to 100 meters long are being designed and produced. The wind turbine blades are designed to have a lifespan of about twenty years, after which they would have to be dismantled due to physical degradation or damage beyond repair. Furthermore, constant development of more efficient blades with higher power generation capacity is resulting in blade replacement well before the twenty-year life span. Estimations have suggested that between 330,000 tons/year by 2028 and 418,000 tons/year by 2040 of composite material from blades will need to be disposed worldwide. That would be equivalent to the amount of plastics waste generated by four million people in the United States in 2013. This anticipated increase in blade manufacturing and disposal will likely lead to adverse environmental consequences, as well as potential occupational exposures, especially because available technologies and key economic constraints result in undesirable disposal methods as the only feasible options.
The material in the shells of the wind turbine blades is typically glass fiberreinforced polymer (GFRP), a resin-matrix material reinforced with fiberglass. In particular, the shells are commonly made from a combination of epoxy resin and glass fiber reinforcement. The blades also contain sandwiched core materials such as polyvinyl chloride foam, polyethylene terephthalate foam, or balsa wood, as well as bonded joints, coatings (polyurethane), and lightning conductors. Conventional epoxy resins are thermosetting materials usually produced by a reaction of epichlorohydrin and bisphenol A in the presence of sodium hydroxide. Both bisphenol A and epichlorohydrin are derived from petrochemicals. Contrary to other types, once cured, thermoset polymers cannot be melted and reshaped by applying heat at high temperatures. As a result, thermoset composites cannot be reformed by any means other than machining, which risks compromising the properties of the material through damage or destruction of the reinforcing fibers. Therefore, the GFRP found in the blades poses a challenge to find or develop more sustainable end-of-life alternatives. …
Katerin Ramirez-Tejeda, David A. Turcotte, Center for Wind Energy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Mass.
Sarah Pike, Political Science and International Relations Department, University of San Diego, Cal.
NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy. Volume 26 issue 4 pages 581-598
Wind energy in Germany and Europe – Status, potentials and challenges for baseload application – Developments in Germany since 2010
Author: Linneman, Thomas; and Vallana, Guido
In Germany the installed nominal capacity of all wind turbines has increased eightfold over the last 16 years to 50,000 megawatts today. In the 18 most important European countries using wind energy today, the nominal capacity rose by twelve times to more than 150,000 megawatts. One essential physical property of wind energy is its large spatiotemporal variation due to wind speed fluctuations. From a meteorological point of view, the electrical power output of wind turbines is determined by weather conditions with typical correlation lengths of several hundred kilometres. As a result, the total wind fleet output of 18 European countries extending over several thousand kilometres in north-south and east-west direction is highly volatile and exhibits a strong intermittent character. An intuitively expectable significant smoothing of this wind fleet output to an amount which would allow a reduction of backup power plant capacity, however, does not occur. [emphasis added] In contrast, a highly intermittent wind fleet power output showing significant peaks and minima is observed not only for a single country, but also for the whole of the 18 European countries. Wind energy therefore requires a practically 100% backup. As the (also combined) capacities of all known storage technologies are (and increasingly will be) insignificant in comparison to the required demand, backup must be provided by conventional power plants, with their business cases fundamentally being impaired in the absence of capacity markets.
Windenergie in Deutschland und Europa – Status quo, Potenziale und Herausfor derungen in der Grundversorgung mit Elektrizität – Entwicklungen in Deutschlandseit 2010: Die installierte Nennleistung sämtlicher Windenergieanlagen in Deutschland hat sich in den letzten 16 Jahren, von Anfang 2001 bis Ende 2016, auf 50.000 Megawatt (MW) verachtfacht. In 18 betrachteten europäischen Ländern, die Windenergie heute nutzen, erhöhte sich die Nennleistung im gleichen Zeitraum um das Zwölffache auf mehr als 150.000 MW. Eine wesentliche physikalische Eigenschaft der Windenergie ist ihre starke raumzeitliche Variation aufgrund der Fluktuationen der Windgeschwindigkeit. Meteorologisch betrachtet wird die aus Windenergieanlagen eingespeiste elektrische Leistung durch Wetterlagen mit typischen Korrelationslängen von mehreren hundert Kilometern bestimmt. Im Ergebnis ist die aufsummierte eingespeiste Leistung der europaweit über mehrere tausend Kilometer sowohl in Nord-Süd- als auch Ost-West-Richtung verteilten Windenergieanlagen hoch volatil, gekennzeichnet durch ein breites Leistungsspektrum. Die intuitive Erwartung einer deutlichen Glättung der Gesamtleistung in einem Maße, das einen Verzicht auf Backup-Kraftwerksleistung ermöglichen würde, tritt allerdings nicht ein. Das Gegenteil ist der Fall, nicht nur für ein einzelnes Land, sondern auch für die große Leistungsspitzen und -minima zeigende Summenzeitreihe der Windstromproduktion 18 europäischer Länder. Für das Jahr 2016 weist die entsprechende Zeitreihe (Stundenwerte) bei idealisiert verlustfreier Betrach tung einen Mittelwert von 33.000 MW und ein Minimum von weniger als 6.500 MW auf. Dies entspricht trotz der europaweit verteilten Windparkstandorte gerade einmal 4 % der in den betrachteten 18 Ländern insgesamt installierten Nennleistung. Windenergie trägt damit praktisch nicht zur Versorgungssicherheit bei und erfordert 100% planbare Backup-Systeme nach heutigem Stand der Technik. Da das benötigte Speichervolumen aller heute bekannten Speichertechnologien im Vergleich zur Elektrizitätsnachfrage gering ist (auch in Kombination und mit steigender Tendenz bei weiterem Ausbau volatiler, vom Dargebot abhängiger erneuerbarer Energien), müssen konventionelle Kraftwerke diese Backup-Funktion übernehmen. Deren Rentabilität steht ohne Kapazitätsmärkte schon heute in Frage.
Thomas Linnemann and Guido S. Vallana
VGB PowerTech, Essen, Deutschland
Download original document in English: “Wind energy in Germany and Europe: Status, potentials and challenges for baseload application”
Auf Deutsch: “Windenergie in Deutschland und Europa: Status quo, Potenziale und Herausfor derungen in der Grundversorgung mit Elektrizität”
Präsentation: VGB-Windstudie 2017
Author: Petrie, Scott; and Chouinard, Matt
As per your letter of engagement dated March 2, 2018, Delta Waterfowl has provided an assessment of the potential impacts of the Sharp Hills Wind Farm (SHWF) on breeding and migrating/staging (hereafter staging) waterfowl. We have reviewed all of the documents that you provided and have mapped the locations and extent of the proposed industrial wind development (Figure 1), proposed industrial wind turbine (IWT) locations in relation to wetlands in the region (Figure 2), breeding waterfowl densities (Figure 3), land-cover types (Figure 4), and a figure showing the waterfowl exclusion zones, avoidance zones (based on European literature – see below) and potential barrier effects if the proposed IWTs are constructed (Figure 5).
Based on our assessment, we have concerns that the proposed wind farm will adversely impact a number of avian (displacement and direct mortality) and bat (mortality) species. Unlike many species of passerines, birds of prey and bats that are killed by IWTs, waterfowl generally avoid industrial wind developments (Larsen and Madsen 2000; Desholm and Kahlert 2005, Stewart et al. 2005, Larsen and Guillemette 2007, Masden et al. 2009, Fijn et al. 2012, Rees 2012) which is problematic when IWTs are placed in and close to important waterfowl habitats, and/or across migratory or feeding flight corridors. This review pertains to the potential barrier effects and habitat loss (due to avoidance) that would be imposed on ducks, geese and swans if the proposed IWT development was constructed. It is our professional opinion that if the proposed industrial wind development is constructed, it will adversely impact breeding as well as spring and fall staging waterfowl. …
Scott Petrie, Ph.D., CEO, Delta Waterfowl
Matt Chouinard, M.Sc., Senior Waterfowl Programs Manager, Delta Waterfowl
12 April, 2018
Download original document: “Sharp Hills Wind Farm: Assessment by Delta Waterfowl”