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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Renewing wind and solar: more denier weirdness from WUWT

Sou | 4:51 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

Anti-climate science blogger Anthony Watts has been a bit more cautious the past couple of days, since the fiasco with "OMG it's insects".  Apart from a very silly article by David "funny sunny" Archibald about the impact of an ice age on wheat crops in North America (archived here) he's been pretty quiet, for Anthony.

Today on WUWT he has posted an interesting and what most people would consider to be a non-controversial article about energy storage (archived here).  The news item from Stanford is about a new paper by Barnhart et al (open access) that presents "a theoretical framework to calculate how storage affects the energy return on energy investment (EROI) ratios of wind and solar resources".  For wind power, "geologic storage technologies, not contemporary battery technologies, are much more favorable for storing electricity generated".  Although the paper does provide examples of calculations, its main purpose is to provide a way to calculate the energy return on energy investment.  The authors make the point:

It is important that the net-energy framework presented here is used appropriately and that our results do not lead to simplistic or wrong conclusions. The value of available energy depends on time, location and need. The economic value of storing energy depends on many factors including extant policies, market forces, and power grid generation availability and power demand conditions. The net-energy framework presented here is intended to aid long-term strategy and planning about the future of our energy systems. The utility lies in informing and building policy around R&D targets, system planning, and economic incentives for energy storage systems. A conclusion that could be drawn from this work is, if society aims to increase output of (say) wind energy with the least energetic investment, it is better in many cases to just build another wind turbine, or possibly transmission lines, than to build a battery to store power that arrives at off-peak times. Conversely, the framework cannot adequately draw conclusions regarding the economic costs and benefits of storage in a given context (time, place, technology).
The paper looks as if it would be useful not merely for its application to grid electricity.  For example:
It is also worth asking the question: are there other uses for electricity generated by wind or solar that would otherwise be stored or curtailed? For example, excess electricity could be used in applications where the need for on-demand power is low and are not strongly disadvantaged by intermittency, for example, desalinating or purifying water or driving irrigation pumps. These conditions could result in high EROI grid values with benefits to society that lie beyond the power-grid sector. 

From the WUWT comments

Anthony avoided making any comment himself apart from a gentle dogwhistle in his title:
Claim: Let’s put batteries on wind and solar farms

What was weird were some of the comments from WUWT deniers.  Some examples:

John from the EU says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:07 am
“contribute significantly to global warming by emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide. Solar and wind power are emissions-free and renewable”
If you count in the emissions used in manufacture they are not emissions free, unless the chain to manufacture is all using renewable energy, which is happening more as more renewables come on line.  Wind and solar as such are both most definitely renewable.

Pathway says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:10 am
By all means let’s put some large holes in the ground to dig up lead, zinc and other heavy metals to store electrons. Idiots.
I wonder how Pathway feels about digging up oil and coal to burn it to get the energy required to dig up more coal and oil just to burn it?

DGP says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:18 am
Any use of the word “renewable” when refering to energy is an automatic fail for any scientific paper. That’s not my rule, it’s Thermodynamics.

Which gets ddpalmer thinking:
September 9, 2013 at 10:28 am
@DGP “Any use of the word “renewable” when refering to energy is an automatic fail for any scientific paper.
That brings up an interesting question I have never seen addressed. Both wind and solar obviously are removing energy from the normal cycle. What effect does this have.
Wind turbines most be causing a reduction in the energy of the wind and thus its velocity. True in small numbers turbines effect can be ignored, although even the builders of wind farms have to place the turbines so they don’t block each other. But what is the long term effect of large numbers of turbines changing wind patterns?
Solar panels absorb energy that would have been absorbed by the earth and buildings which would have then been re-radiated back to the sky. But if absorbed and converted to electricity it isn’t re-radiated, or at least isn’t immediately re-radiated. Wouldn’t a large number of solar farms cause an imbalance in the downwelling and upwelling solar radiation? Aren’t greenhouse gasses supposed to be bad because they cause just such an imbalance? What might be the effect on global temperatures if there are lots of solar farms in operation?

Steve Crook wonders why anyone would power batteries in electric vehicles with renewable energy rather than non-renewable and says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:30 am
Energy that would otherwise be lost during times of excess could be used to pump water for irrigation or to charge a fleet of electric vehicles, for example,”
But those electric vehicles have batteries in them, so what’s the difference? Surely all you’ve done is change the location of the battery?

C.M. Carmichael says we should go back to using leaves, wood and animals as our power sources:
September 9, 2013 at 10:36 am
However, the U.S. grid has very limited storage capacity.”
Where does the grid have any storage capacity?
Leaves are the only renewable solar panel that works, they capture solar energy and remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and they are biodegradable when their useful lifespan is over. Wood and other cellulose materials are the best batteries for solar energy, animals are also stored solar energy. Both are renewable and biodegradable, and are much cheaper, more efficient and require no toxic mining operations. As far as it goes all “fossil” fuels are stored solar energy, great for long term storage.

Eve is a plain vanilla science denier and says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:39 am
Fail-as soon as you read “fossil fuels that contribute to global warming”

lsarc agrees with Eve and says, with mythical imagery (excerpts):
September 9, 2013 at 11:06 am
The fundamental problem with this study, interesting and useful as it is, is that it is based on two unsupportable assumptions:
1) Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 in quantities which are solely responsible for changing the climate
2) That using Industrial Wind and Solar power reduces CO2 emissions by displacing fossil fuel consumption.
Since neither of these 2 assumptions are valid, the conclusions reached by this article must be considered very carefully before any credence can be given to them,...
 ...This is just more green Pixie dust and unicorn horns, similar to what you get out of a bull on spring pasture.

It's cute watching the minds of WUWT-ers tick over, sometimes backwards sometimes forward.


  1. KR

    That is an interesting paper, the one that WUWT disses - much the same results, with overcapacity being more economical than storage, come out of Budischak et al 2013, who recommend a 3x overbuild of renewables to provide baseload power at up to 99.9% of supply directly coming from renewable sources, rather than any fossil fuel backups.

  2. Doesn't Anthony Watts always brag about owning an electric car? I don't get this one, not that I get a lot of WUWT nuttiness, but arguing against solar and wind on principle just seems silly even for a denier.


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