Victoria’s windfarms have saved virtually no coal from being burnt.
South Australian windfarms have saved 4% of their rated capacity in fossil fuels at a cost of $1,484 per ton.
That’s only $1,474 above the current price of carbon credits per ton in the EU. They are 96% useless, and cost 150 times more than necessary for what they do (except for the times they are more useless and more expensive).
The point of a windfarm is not so much to produce electricity but to reduce greenhouse emissions.
If we built windfarms for the electricity they generate, we’d be better off paying for reliable electrons from cheap brown coal, and using the savings to research a cure for cancer. The point in putting up expensive, infrasonic thumping towers of steel and concrete that kill eagles and explode bat lungs is because it reduces our carbon dioxide emissions, except that it doesn’t really.
Mechanical engineer Hamish Cumming has written a whopper of a report (though I can’t find an online copy of it*). Because Victoria doesn’t have much of a gas powered grid, it can’t take advantage of the odd intermittent peaks of wind power. Like a huge car, the big coal fired plants run best at a steady pace, and all the switching up and down just reduces their mileage so they need more coal per kilowatt.
South Australia does have some gas power, but don’t get too excited, even there, wind farms reduce CO2 statewide by about 1%.
“Cumming references an AEMO presentation to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission where the AEMO showed that for the wind farms in SA in 2009 the greenhouse gas abatement was only 3 per cent of the total capacity of the wind farms installed.
This equated to a 0.6 per cent reduction of greenhouse gases for the entire state’s electrical generation from fossil fuels.
Since then Cumming says he has established that even with the continued expansion of wind farms in South Australia, the AEMO figures show the abatement has risen to only about 4 per cent of the installed capacity, or just more than 1 per cent greenhouse gas abatement.
This is the same figure that was established in the past three months in The Netherlands and presented to the Dutch parliament. The Netherlands report suggests the greenhouse gas used to build and maintain a wind farm will not be abated even across the total life of the wind farm.”
The four percent fuel savings (that 4% of nameplate capacity of the windfarm) is similar to experiences in the Netherlands (see Trick 5 here).
Hamish Cumming is an active campaigner against wind-turbines — so we should ask pro-wind-turbine developers for their point of view too. The Australian did, and their answer was essentially that according to modeling, wind farms “would” save 26,700 tons of CO2 emissions annually. In other words, the benefits are theoretical, but the actual data — the tons of coal burned — shows they don’t help reduce CO2.
“…owners of Yallourn, Hazelwood and Loy Yang power stations had confirmed in writing that the power stations combined consume about 7762 tonnes of coal an hour. They have confirmed that the power stations do not change the coal feed intake 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. ”
“Cumming has called for Victoria’s wind developments to be stripped of public subsidies.”
His farm may have been hit by arsonists:
“Two woolsheds and three haystacks were set on fire on Hamish Cummings’ property yesterday. One of the woolsheds had historical significance.
Mr Cummings says he has been threatened before and is positive he was targeted because of his stance on wind farms
“[I've] had a number of direct threats in terms of notes and bottles of petrol with notes saying costing people money and if I go to the police they’re going to shoot me and all sorts of things like that,” he said.”
Wind power is a major global industry but it’s only making in the order of 1.4% of total electricity. Often overlooked by their supporters, the emissions to construct a wind turbine are substantial — making the concrete in the huge base emits a lot of CO2, and all that material has to be transported to what are often remote locations.
Steve Hunter is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator and lives in Buderim Queensland.
*UPDATE: My mistake, after contacting Hamish to get a copy of “the report” – I find that what he’s done is two years research, collated and crunched, but not in a form he can publish in toto easily. He is most happy to provide links to sources for the data and answer questions.