Ontario Solar Performance

August 22, 2011

I’m delighted to announce that a website exists that has live and historical solar output data for a number of FIT locations.  I will be databasing this data, which is a slow process, and presenting my analysis here:


T. Boone’s Windy Misadventure And the Global Backlash Against Wind Energy

July 29, 2011

Excepts from:



“Over the past few days, protesters in Denmark have been camping on a wooded tract in Northern Jutland in order to prevent the clearing of a protected forest where the government plans to build a test center that aims to install a series of wind turbines 250 meters high.”

“One of peer-reviewed articles that appears in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, is by Carl V. Phillips, a Harvard-trained PhD. Phillips concludes that there is “overwhelming evidence that wind turbines cause serious health problems in nearby residents, usually stress-disorder type diseases, at a nontrivial rate.””

“Among the most prominent critics of the wind industry on the noise issue is Dr. Robert McMurtry, an Ontario-based orthopedic surgeon. McMurtry has impeccable credentials. He’s a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. Earlier this month he was named a Member of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award.

Over the past two years, McMurtry has spearheaded the effort to stop industrial wind projects in Ontario while also leading efforts to get peer-reviewed medical studies done on the deleterious effects of turbine-produced infrasound. “The people who are forced to live near these turbines are being abused,” McMurtry told me a few months ago. “It is compromising their health.””

“Of course, the wind industry claims that it has huge opportunities offshore. That’s true if money is no object. Building offshore wind projects costs about $5,000 per kilowatt, or about the same as a new nuclear plant, even though a nuclear plant will have a capacity factor at least three times that of the wind project. Put another way, building offshore wind costs about five times as much as the $1,000 or so per kilowatt needed for a new natural gas fired generator.

Those high costs will mean high costs for ratepayers. The likely cost for electricity from Cape Wind, the controversial wind project located off of Cape Code, will be about $0.21 per kilowatt-hour – if that project ever gets built.”

“In 2008, a study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks – as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the MBTA – are being killed every year by the wind turbines located at Altamont Pass, California.

Last month, the Los Angeles Timesreported that 70 golden eagles per year are being killed by the turbines at Altamont Pass. But again, the federal government has not brought a single case against the wind industry. Wildlife biologists estimate that the region around the pass would need 167 pairs of nesting golden eagles to produce enough offspring in order to make up for all of the eagles being killed by the bird Cuisinarts at Altamont. But the region only has 60 pairs of eagles.

Indeed, the only time the wind industry has ever faced legal action for killing birds occurred last year when the state of California reached a $2.5 million settlementwith NextEra Energy Resources for the bird kills at Altamont. As part of that deal, the company agreed to remove or replace all of the turbines at Altamont by 2015.

The lack of prosecution of the wind industry for bird kills underscores a pernicious double standard in the enforcement of federal wildlife laws: at the very same time that federal law enforcement officials are bringing cases against oil and gas companies and electric utilities under the MBTA, they have given a de facto exemption to the wind industry for any enforcement action under that same statute. Indeed, over the past two decades or so, federal authorities have brought hundreds of cases against the oil and gas industry for violations of the MBTA. A recent example: On August 13, 2009, Exxon Mobil pled guilty in federal court to charges that it killed 85 birds – all of which were protected under the MBTA. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees for the bird kills, which occurred after the animals came in contact with hydrocarbons in uncovered tanks and waste water facilities on company properties located in five western states.

Despite the toll that wind turbines are taking on birds, the industry continues to claim that efforts to protect bird life are just too stringent. In May, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced guidelines for the siting of wind turbines, but AWEA immediately objected, with the lobby group’s boss, Denise Bode, denouncing the guidelines as “unworkable.”

Bats are getting whacked, too. On July 17, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the 420 wind turbines that have been erected in Pennsylvania “killed more than 10,000 bats last year…That’s an average of 25 bats per turbine per year, and the Nature Conservancy predicts that as many as 2,900 turbines will be set up across the state by 2030.”

A study of a 44-turbine wind farm in West Virginia found that up to 4,000 bats had been killed by the turbines in 2004 alone. A 2008 study of dead bats found on the ground near a Canadian wind farm found that many of the bats had been killed by a change in air pressure near the turbine blades that causes fatal damage to their lungs, a condition known as “barotrauma.”

Bat Conservation International, an Austin-based group dedicated to preserving the flying mammals and their habitats, has called the proliferation of wind turbines “a lethal crisis.” In 2009, I interviewed Ed Arnett, who heads the group’s research efforts on wind power. He said that the head-long rush to develop wind power is having major detrimental effects on bat populations but few environmental groups are willing to discuss the problem because those groups are so focused on the issue of carbon dioxide emissions and the possibility of global warming. “To compromise today’s wildlife values and environmental impacts for tomorrow’s speculated hopes is irresponsible,” Arnett said. But Arnett added that only a handful of bat species are protected by federal law. And thus the killing of bats by wind turbines gets little attention from the media.”

“The final issue to be addressed is the one that drives the wind energy devotees to total distraction: carbon dioxide. For years, it has been assumed that wind energy can provide a cost-effective method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The reality: wind energy’s carbon dioxide-cutting benefits are vastly overstated. Furthermore, if wind energy does help reduce carbon emissions, those reductions are likely too expensive to be used on any kind of scale.

Those are the findings of an exhaustive new study from Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm. Rather than rely on computer models that use theoretical emissions data, the authors of the study, Porter Bennett and Brannin McBee, analyzed actual emissions data from electric generation plants located in four regions: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Bonneville Power Administration, California Independent System Operator, and the Midwest Independent System Operator. Those four system operators serve about 110 million customers, or about one-third of the US population.

Bennett and McBee looked at more than 300,000 hourly records from 2007 through 2009. Their results show that the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other wind boosters have vastly overstated wind’s ability to cut sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. Indeed, the study found that in some regions of the country, like California, using wind energy doesn’t reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at all. But the most important conclusion from the study is that wind energy is not “a cost-effective solution for reducing carbon dioxide if carbon is valued at less than $33 per ton.” With the US economy still in recession and unemployment numbers near record levels, Congress cannot, will not, attempt to impose a carbon tax, no matter how small.”

In 2004, the Irish Electricity Supply Boardfound that as the level of wind capacity increases, “the CO2 emissions actually increase as a direct result of having to cope with the variation of wind-power output.”

A 2008 article published in the journal Energy Policy, James Oswald and his two co-authors concluded that increased use of windwill likely cause utilities to invest in lower-efficiency gas-fired generators that will be switched on and off frequently, a move that further lowers their energy efficiency. Upon publication of the study, Oswald said that carbon dioxide savings from wind power “will be less than expected, because cheaper, less efficient [gas-fired] plant[s] will be used to support these wind power fluctuations. Neither these extra costs nor the increased carbon production are being taken into account in the government figures for wind power.”

In November 2009, Kent Hawkins, a Canadian electrical engineer, published a detailed analysis on the frequency with which gas-fired generators must be cycled on and off in order to back up wind power. Hawkins findings: the frequent switching on and off results in more gas consumption than if there were no wind turbines at all. His analysis suggests that it would be more efficient in terms of carbon dioxide emissions to simply run combined-cycle gas turbines on a continuous basis rather than use wind turbines backed up by gas-fired generators that are constantly being turned on and off. Hawkins concludes that wind power is not an “effective CO2 mitigation” strategy “because of inefficiencies introduced by fast-ramping (inefficient) operation of gas turbines.”

“If those fat subsidies go away, then the US wind sector will be stopped dead in its tracks. And for consumers, that should be welcome news.

The wind energy business is the electric sector’s equivalent of the corn ethanol scam: it’s an over-subsidized industry that depends wholly on taxpayer dollars to remain solvent while providing an inferior product to consumers that does little, if anything, to reduce our need for hydrocarbons or cut carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, it only increases costs and complexity for the utilities, which, in turn, means higher costs for consumers.

A final point: whenever you hear people like Steve Chu complain about “NIMBYs” who don’t want wind turbines on their property, be sure to include billionaires on the list of NIMBYs.

You see, people like Boone Pickens are eager to have wind turbines and transmission lines put up on other people’s land, not theirs. In 2008, Pickens declared that his 68,000-acre ranch located in the Texas Panhandle, one of America’s windiest regions, will not sport a single turbine. “I’m not going to have the windmills on my ranch,” Pickens declared. “They’re ugly.”

Chapter 4.11.4C Power dumping

July 21, 2011

From The Financial Post

Ontario’s Power Trip: Power dumping
Billions are wasted buying subsidized wind and solar power that ends up being exported at fire-sale prices

By Parker Gallant and Scott Luft, Financial Post

During the spring months in Ontario, the winds blow a lot. For companies in the wind-power business, that’s good news. For the province’s electricity consumers, though, it’s another financial disaster that, on an annual basis, drains up to $400-million out of consumers’ pockets. But that money doesn’t directly fund green electricity for Ontarians who pay for it. Instead, the bulk of wind power is essentially surplus power that is exported to the United States and out of province at rock-bottom prices. Ontarians are paying $135 for units of power that are dumped on the export market at prices as low as $20. Sometimes, Ontario has to pay other jurisdictions to take the surplus off its hands.

This past May, Ontario’s wind producers generated 284,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity. For each MWh, the producers collected $135, for a total of $38-million. That money is paid out of the churning slush fund that is now the Ontario electric power system. The system, through its byzantine structures, sold that same power into the electricity market at market prices. The average market price for electricity in May was about $25 a MWh. Wind power, however, rarely gets even the average price.

Because wind often blows when power is not needed, and the Ontario government has mandated wind, the Ontario power system is stuck with surplus power that has to be unloaded, at whatever the market will bear, which is usually below average market prices.

Wind power appears out of the blue, usually at night and during low-demand spring and fall seasons. The province’s grid operator — the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) — is obligated to take wind power and offer it in the market, driving the average market price down when demand is already low and power is surplus to Ontario’s needs. The buyers are Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Quebec. By our calculations, in the last five and a half years, electricity produced from wind has exceeded exports less than two out of every 100 hours. So a strong case can be made that Ontario ratepayers export 98% of wind’s production.

Based on our reconstruction of official data from the IESO, the average price paid for wind in May was $21.62, about 16% below the average market price of $25.89 for all electricity — and about 85% below the mandated wind price of $135. In the end, the $38-million paid to wind power producers in May generated only $6.2-million on the market, creating a $32-million subsidy overpayment for wind power the province doesn’t need.

That, however, is just the start. During the month of May, the $32-million wind subsidy was joined by other subsidies — solar generation, conservation-related advertising, fixed price non-utility generator (NUG) contracts, grants to community power groups and schemes that pay consumers not to use electricity. All these giveaways add up. We call them subsidies because this is money paid for electric power at rates below market rates. The total subsidy for May was $498.2-million, a record. Over the 12-month period ending in May, the total was $4.3-billion. The annual subsidy for the current fiscal year is certain to exceed $5-billion, a number that will continue to rise in years to come as Ontario bears the burden of the Liberal government’s green energy program.

What really matters in this is that these subsidies will continue to grow to pay for new green energy that is not needed. The province is adding new renewable energy supplies — wind and solar — contributing to a large and growing electricity surplus.

The scale of this expensive Ontario surplus can be seen in the graph above. It is big today and is set to get much bigger. According to a projection by Clearsky Advisors, in a paper for the wind industry, Ontario’s net exports of electricity will soar to 20 terawatt hours by 2013, up from 12.7 TWh this year. The increase, 7.3 TWh, is almost the combined increase in wind (3.7 TWh) and solar (2.3 Twh) over the period. Because this expensive electricity is surplus to Ontario demand, it will be exported at cheap prices.

Looking forward, the graph suggests that Ontario will have a massive surplus, exporting power until 2015 at an increasing cost to consumers. Then, with the apparent closure of some nuclear plants, the balance will plunge back into a sudden shortage in 2018. The realism in these longer-term projections is suspect, but there is no doubt that Ontario now faces a massive oversupply of electricity over the next few years, electricity that will have to be exported at mounting cost to consumers.

Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid likes to portray this exported power as an economic bonus. “Electricity Exports Continue to Benefit Ontarians,” his department said in a news release last week. So far this year, Mr. Duguid’s officials claimed, Ontario had net exported power revenues of $161.5-million. Since 2006, it claimed, Ontario has received $1.6-billion in revenue from net power exports that “keeps costs down for families.”

But is that true? How much does that export power cost Ontario power consumers? Based on our analysis of IESO data, the total cost of the exported power since 2006 exceeded $2.5-billion (see table below). That means that Ontario power consumers, who must pick up the difference, suffered a loss of more than $900-million on the exports. As the table shows, moreover, those losses are mounting as more and more surplus wind and solar energy is added to the system.

The cause of this now well-known financial foolery is a sharp drop in demand due to the economic slowdown and Ontario’s 2009 Green Energy Act (GEA). The GEA established a feed-in-tariff (FIT) program for wind, solar and other renewable power sources.

As the act kicks in, the buried numbers are growing fast and are destined to rise as much as 50% over the next years. The subsidies for wind alone have increased from less than $50-million per annum in early 2007 to $352-million today. If the current year’s pattern continues through December, the subsidies for wind alone will amount to $448-million in 2011.

For all power, the hidden cost of Ontario’s power surplus will likely exceed $5-billion this fiscal year. If exports almost triple, as forecast, the costs could hit $8-billion or even $10-billion over the next few years.

That’s a lot of money to dump for a province that can’t afford it.

Parker Gallant is a former Canadian banker who looked at his Ontario electricity bills and didn’t like what he was seeing. Scott Luft is a former retailer and small businessman with a statistical interest in Ontario electricity data and the effectiveness of Ontario’s renewable energy policies.


June 8, 2011

Paul L. Joskow

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and MIT



Economic evaluations of alternative electric generating technologies typically rely on comparisons between their expected life-cycle production costs per unit of electricity supplied. The standard life-cycle cost metric utilized is the “levelized cost” per MWh supplied. This paper demonstrates that this metric is inappropriate for comparing intermittent generating technologies like wind and solar with dispatchable generating technologies like nuclear, gas combined cycle, and coal. Levelized cost comparisons are a misleading metric for comparing intermittent and dispatchable generating technologies because they fail to take into account differences in the production profiles of intermittent and dispatchable generating technologies and the associated large variations in the market value of the electricity they supply. Levelized cost comparisons overvalue intermittent generating technologies compared to dispatchable base load generating technologies. These comparisons also typically overvalue wind generating technologies compared to solar generating technologies. Integrating differences in production profiles, the associated variations in the market value of the electricity at the times it is supplied, and the expected life-cycle costs associated with different generating technologies is necessary to provide meaningful economic comparisons between them. This market-based framework also has implications for the appropriate design of procurement auctions created to implement renewable energy procurement mandates, the efficient structure of production tax credits for renewable energy, incentives for and the evaluation of electricity storage technologies and the evaluation of the additional costs of integrating intermittent generation into electric power networks.



Windfarms in UK operate well below advertised efficiency

April 7, 2011

Read the Full Report


in respect of analysis of electricity generation from all the U.K. windfarms which are metered by National Grid, November 2008 to December 2010. The following five statements are common assertions made by both the wind industry and Government representatives and agencies. This Report examines those assertions.

1. “Wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year.”

2. “The wind is always blowing somewhere.”

3. “Periods of widespread low wind are infrequent.”

4. “The probability of very low wind output coinciding with peak electricity demand is slight.”

5. “Pumped storage hydro can fill the generation gap during prolonged low wind periods.”

This analysis uses publicly available data for a 26 month period between November 2008 and December 2010 and the facts in respect of the above assertions are:

1. Average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and 24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive.

2. There were 124 separate occasions from November 2008 till December 2010 when total generation from the windfarms metered by National Grid was less than 20MW. (Average capacity over the period was in excess of 1600MW).

3. The average frequency and duration of a low wind event of 20MW or less between November 2008 and December 2010 was once every 6.38 days for a period of 4.93 hours.

4. At each of the four highest peak demands of 2010 wind output was low being respectively 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity at peak demand.

5. The entire pumped storage hydro capacity in the UK can provide up to 2788MW for only 5 hours then it drops to 1060MW, and finally runs out of water after 22 hours.

OTHER FINDINGS have emerged in the course of this analysis in addition to the Principal Findings which related to the testing of five common assertions. These Other Findings are listed below.

1. During the study period, wind generation was:

* below 20% of capacity more than half the time;

* below 10% of capacity over one third of the time;

* below 2.5% capacity for the equivalent of one day in twelve;

* below 1.25% capacity for the equivalent of just under one day a month.

The discovery that for one third of the time wind output was less than 10% of capacity, and often significantly less than 10%, was an unexpected result of the analysis.

2. Among the 124 days on which generation fell below 20MW were 51 days when generation was 10MW or less. In some ways this is an unimportant statistic because with 20MW or less output the contribution from wind is effectively zero, and a few MW less is neither here nor there. But the very existence of these events and their frequency – on average almost once every 15 days for a period of 4.35 hours – indicates that a major reassessment of the capacity credit of wind power is required.

3. Very low wind events are not confined to periods of high pressure in winter. They can occur at any time of the year.

4. The incidence of high wind and low demand can occur at any time of year. As connected wind capacity increases there will come a point when no more thermal plant can be constrained off to accommodate wind power. In the illustrated 30GW connected wind capacity model with “must-run” thermal generation assumed to be 10GW, this scenario occurs 78 times, or 3 times a month on average. This indicates the requirement for a major reassessment of how much wind capacity can be tolerated by the Grid.

5. The frequency of changes in output of 100MW or more over a five minute period was surprising. There is more work to be done to determine a pattern, but during March 2011, immediately prior to publication of this report, there were six instances of a five minute rise in output in excess of 100MW, the highest being 166MW, and five instances of a five minute drop in output in excess of 100MW, the highest being 148MW. This indicates the requirement for a re-assessment of the potential for increased wind capacity to simulate the instantaneous loss (or gain) of a large thermal plant.

6. The volatility of wind was underlined in the closing days of March 2011 as this Report was being finalised.

* At 3.00am on Monday 28th March, the entire output from 3226MW capacity was 9MW

* At 11.40am on Thursday 31st March, wind output was 2618MW, the highest recorded to date

* The average output from wind in March 2011 was 22.04%

* Output from wind in March 2011 was 10% of capacity or less for 30.78% of the time.

The nature of wind output has been obscured by reliance on “average output” figures. Analysis of hard data from National Grid shows that wind behaves in a quite different manner from that suggested by study of average output derived from the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) record, or from wind speed records which in themselves are averaged. It is clear from this analysis that wind cannot be relied upon to provide any significant level of generation at any defined time in the future. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the implications of reliance on wind for any significant proportion of our energy requirement.