How Subsidized Wind and Solar Power Threatens our National Grid

By: - Climate DepotDecember 16, 2020 12:49 PM


By Donn Dears
Editor’s Note: Energy engineer Donn Dears, a member of the CO2 Coalition, spent his career at General Electric Company in the power sector, leading organizations that provided engineering services for GE’s large electrical apparatus. In his new book, The Looming Energy Crisis: Are Blackouts Inevitable?, Dears explains the workings of the grid that is charged with delivering affordable, reliable energy to American homes and businesses. He shows how mandates and subsidies for expensive, unreliable wind and solar power are raising prices and even damaging equipment. Further, Dears reveals how auctions and other decisions by supposedly apolitical, federally-chartered transmission systems “rig the market” in favor of wind and solar. He also presents the latest science on warming from CO2 and methane emissions. The following excerpts are taken from the book.
(From the Introduction)
There is an ideology that threatens the grid. This book will examine how federal regulators, state governments, utility companies, and the operators of the grid themselves are imposing their beliefs about climate change on all Americans and placing the grid in great jeopardy. Unelected bureaucrats and self-imposed intelligentsia are making decisions that place all Americans in danger.
It can be argued that the actions these people are taking are making electricity more costly and less reliable and placing Americans at risk for little or no reason. The Looming Energy Crisis will show you why we must continue to use fossil fuels and why we must protect the grid from the actions of those who are imposing their personal beliefs on the rest of us. Our objective should be low-cost reliable electricity available for everyone. Reliability is a national security issue.
(From Chapter 1: The Grid)
The basic components of the grid consist of the equipment that generates the electricity, the equipment that carries the electricity across the country, and the distribution of electricity to the homeowner or business…
Traditional methods of generating electricity, other than hydro, are built to operate 24/7, year round, and are referred to as baseload power. Attempting to have these plants follow load, with load increasing and decreasing, has negative effects of a varying nature.
Nuclear plants can’t be cycled up or down when demand varies. Coal-fired plants are damaged by the expansion and contraction of component parts when they try to follow load, due to the varying temperatures created with increasing and decreasing steam flows. Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants are more flexible and can adjust output more readily. Natural gas peaking units can ramp up and down rapidly. Their purpose is to provide electricity during peak periods of demand. Wind and solar PV, on the other hand, only operate when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining and can’t be relied on to generate electricity when needed…
Storage has become an issue as attempts are made to use more wind and PV solar on the grid. Lithium-ion batteries have become the battery of choice. Lithium-ion batteries have to be replaced ever ten years or so, which adds to the cost of storage…
Capacity factor (CF) is an important measurement for evaluating different types of generation. CFs for the various methods of generating electricity are: Nuclear: 91 percent; Natural gas combined cycle: 87 percent; Coal-fired plants: 85 percent; Onshore wind: around 34 percent; PV solar: 12-25 percent, usually based on location…
(From Chapter 2: Framework for Mandates)
It’s been demonstrated that capturing CO2 from a coal-fired power plant results in derating the plant by around one-third. In other words, a plant rated at 300 megawatts becomes a plant rated at 200 megawatts. Derating is the result of using about one-third of the power plant’s output to run the equipment requires to capture and compress the CO2 so it can be transported and sequestered underground…
In pursuit of clean energy, many states have established renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that utilities must follow…The RPS usually begins with a small requirement, say 5 percent, and then increases until it reaches a fairly large requirement by 2050.
(From Chapter 3: Clean Electricity Mandates)
These twelve states listed in Table 1, plus any others that adopt 100 percent clean electricity goals, have unwittingly mandated three outcomes:
  1. Substantially higher costs for electricity for every resident;
  2. Less reliable service with more frequent interruptions;
  3. Increased risk for extended blackouts.
While it’s not easy to estimate the cost for a state or city, the cost for the entire country to replace fossil fuels is nearly $20 trillion, about equal to our national debt. Plus, most of this cost is repeated every ten years as batteries and equipment wear out and have to be replaced.
The increased cost of electricity will be substantial. Germans already pay four times more than the average American, and they have only cut their CO2 emissions by 31 percent. Imagine how much more they will pay when they start to add more than token amounts of storage…
(From Chapter 8:Market Structure)
At the direction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 1999, regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs) were established covering two-thirds of the population of the United States…We will establish that the integrity and reliability of the grid as well as the low-cost objective have been jeopardized by politicians at both the state and federal levels who have been pursuing policies based on political agendas. The fear of climate change, with the objective of cutting GHG emissions, is central to these political agendas. In essence RTO/ISOs have rigged the market to ensure that wind and solar replace fossil fuels.
(From Chapter 10: Rigged Auctions)
Real-time auctions (Note: in which RTO/ISOs buy power from power plants) operate in a similar manner to day-ahead auctions. Both have three immediate consequences.
First, they result in nuclear and coal-fired power plants being retired, which reduces the availability of baseload power…
Second, they encourage the building of unnecessary power plants. Wind and solar plants are built because they get subsidies and can always win these auctions, even though there may not be a need for the electricity they produce other than to meet renewable portfolio standards required by some states. Utilities and independent power producers are building these wind installations to take advantage of the tax credits.
Third, the levelized cost of electricity from wind and solar is higher than from NGCC, coal-fired, and nuclear power plants…
Wind and solar have a competitive advantage because they can bid zero and still have their costs covered by an out-of-market payment – a payment hidden in the bidding process.
This is skewing the bidding so that wind and solar can always win any bid they enter.
(From Chapter 12: Supply Must Meet Demand)
To protect against the collapse of the grid when wind or solar fail to produce electricity (there must be) gas turbines standing by in spinning reserve, ready to come online at a moment’s notice.
This may not be possible during the winter in northern states where the supply of natural gas is unavailable to NGCC power plants because natural gas must go to homeowners for heating purposes before it can be used to generate electricity.
There are some areas, such as in New York and New England, where state government have prohibited the construction of pipelines, preventing the availability of sufficient supplies of natural gas in those areas.
This problem is migrating to other areas of the country as state governments prevent the construction of pipelines to meet the growing demand for natural gas. Protesters are preventing the construction of pipelines by using the courts to block construction for a variety of reasons. Many of these pipelines are essential if there is to be a guaranteed supply of electricity in certain areas of the country.
(From Chapter 20: Recent Trends)
In 2020 Professor Judith Curry drew three main conclusions from her latest paper, “Plausible scenarios for climate change: 2020-2050.”
  1. We are starting to narrow the uncertainty in the amount of warming from emissions that we can expect out to 2050.
  2. All three modes of natural variability – solar, volcanoes, and internal variability – are expected to trend cool over the next three decades.
  3. Depending on the relative magnitude of emissions driven warming versus natural variability, decades with no warming, or even cooling, are more or less plausible.” (Net warmest scenario: +.7 degrees Celsius; Net moderate scenario: +.11 C; Net coldest scenario: -.5 C.)
The latest science has established we have nothing to fear from increases in atmospheric levels of CO2 and methane…
There is every reason to believe that we are not facing an existential threat, and that actions to curtail CO2 and methane will cause severe harm to Americans.