Francis Menton: Still waiting for the magical future of free wind power
Wind power: It’s clean. It’s free. It’s renewable. Google the subject, and you will quickly find fifty articles claiming that electricity from wind is now cheaper than electricity from those evil, dirty fossil fuels. So why doesn’t some country somewhere get all of its electricity from wind?
In fact, despite now several decades of breakneck building of wind turbines, no country seems to be able to get even half of its electricity from wind when averaged over the course of a year, and no country has really even begun to solve the problem of needing full backup when the wind doesn’t blow.
Germany is the current world champion at trying to get its electricity from wind. (It also gets a small contribution from solar panels, but since it is the world’s cloudiest country, those don’t help much.). According to Clean Energy Wire, December 2022, in 2020 Germany got 45.2% of its electricity from wind and sun. Then that declined to 41% in 2021, due to lack of wind. In 2022 they appear to have bounced back to 46%. Germany has enough wind turbines that they produce big surpluses of electricity when the wind blows at full strength. But they still haven’t cracked the threshold of meeting 50% of electricity demand with wind and sun over the course of a year.
It’s no better over in the territory of co-climate crusader UK. Despite a crash program to build wind turbines (also accompanied by a smidgeon of solar panels), the UK’s percent of power from wind in 2022 was 26.8%, according to the BBC on January 6, 2023. Solar added a paltry 4.4%.
Well, maybe this project isn’t as easy as the central planners thought it would be. News of the past week brings to light a few more speed bumps on the road to energy utopia.
At the website Not A Lot Of People Know That, Paul Homewood on June 21 presents a calculation for the UK of how much wind turbine capacity would be necessary to supply the country with all its electricity needs by building extra wind capacity and using it to electrolyze water into hydrogen. The calculation was initially prepared by a guy named John Brown, and provided to Paul. For those interested in reviewing the calculation, it is available by emailing Mr. Brown at [email protected].
For starters, Homewood notes that average demand in the UK was 29 GW in 2022, and it has 28 GW of wind turbine capacity already. As you can immediately see, the fact that 28 GW of “capacity” only supplied 26.8% of average demand of 29 GW indicates an average capacity factor of under 30% for the wind turbines. The total demand for the year came to 262 TWh, but the wind turbines only produced 62 TWh.