Anatomy of a Wind Myth

August 23, 2010

Crossposted from my work blog at EmbraceMyPlanet, this is lengthy examination of the bizarre world of the anti-wind industry. This article is written in my professional capacity.

There are plenty of myths around wind power – variability, noise, costs and so on. But where do they come from? We’re going to analyse one particular myth to find out.

The myth we’re going to look at is one that’s been hanging around anti-wind sites for some time – we’ll call it the No Displacement myth. It’s the belief that because the variability of wind power results in fossil fuel power plants needing to raise and lower their output rapidly to compensate for the variations in wind power, the extra carbon emissions caused by this actually outweigh the emissions displaced by using wind power.

A key current advocate of this myth is the website MasterResource. MasterResource is a free-market energy blog with a range of high-profile contributors, including Robert Bradley Jr., an adjunct scholar of the libertarian think-tank The Cato Institute and a former Director of Public Policy Analysis at Enron. The ideological underpinnings of this site can be demonstrated in Bradley’s belief in the economic doctrine of ‘resourceship’, which claims that resources are not limited by the quantity present in the Earth but rather the ingenuity of man to extract them. This means, in essence, that if peak oil becomes a reality it’ll be because we weren’t intelligent enough to find more – not that there was no more to find. We’ll leave it to the reader to decide on the merits of this doctrine.

MasterResource has published a series of posts by former management consultant Kent Hawkins on the No Displacement myth. They deal with two studies which ostensibly show that the emissions caused by power plant ‘cycling’ (i.e. raising or lowering output to match wind generation) are greater than the emissions that would’ve been caused if the plant was left to generate that amount itself.

The first study is from the Netherlands, and is by C. le Pair and K. De Groot. It’s hosted Dr. le Pair’s personal website, which bears an anti-wind logo at the top, and doesn’t appear to be peer-reviewed. The study raises the valid point that inefficiencies are caused by cycling power plants, which isn’t under dispute. The study claims that these inefficiencies outweigh carbon savings from wind when they rise over 2.5% if wind power makes up more than 5% of the amount of electricity that’s used to meet demand. Their maths, in this regard, seems correct – but the problem arises when they try to prove that these inefficiencies actually happen in practice. They admit that they were unable to find data on this subject, but that doesn’t stop them trying to estimate what the efficiency drop required to make using wind turbines to generate electricity result in more carbon emissions would be.

Their discussion section goes through a series of complex-looking equations to find that the drop in efficiency necessary is exactly equivalent to the amount of electricity the wind turbines actually produce. This seems rather obvious. They then produce a table which purports to demonstrate that a relatively small drop in efficiency for the overall system would result in a significant drop in efficiency for the power plant that the wind turbines displace. This table was compiled with help from… Kent Hawkins.

How to make your own Wind Myth #1: Think Ouroboros – Refer to articles that you helped to write as evidence for your myth!

We’ll go into the roots of Hawkin’s calculator that the Dutch study relied on in a moment. The second study in Hawkin’s series of blog posts is one carried out by Bentek Energy, on behalf of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States. The third page of the report bears the disclaimer: “BENTEK DOES NOT WARRANT THE ACCURACY OR CORRECTNESS OF THE REPORT OR THE INFORMATION CONTAINED THEREIN.”

Bentek focus on the experience of the PCSO company in Colorado, which has added significant amounts of wind power capacity to its electricity grid since 2007. Since that time, the heat rate (the amount of fuel used per unit of electricity generated) has increased by around 1% across the entire set of PCSO’s coal plants. Bentek claim that this disguises the situation at individual plants, and presents two graphs of heat rate from Cherokee Plant in 2006 and 2008. They claim that these graphs indicate increased variability in heat rate – but this would be more convincing if both graphs used the same scale. As it is, the 2008 one looks a little stretched.

The next part of the report focuses on two scenarios from a PCSO training presentation. Both show a rapid variation in wind power over the course of a few hours, leading to coal electricity production being quickly ramped up and ramped down. Why these particular scenarios were picked from the presentation is unclear; there are four scenarios given in the presentation, but the other two show much less dramatic shifts in wind power.

Older coal plants like Cherokee have difficulty coping with their emissions following cycling – their emissions control systems are predicated on maintaining a constant boiler temperature. Every coal generator in Colorado is over 30 years old – Cherokee is over 50. This means that following cycling, emissions control systems can frequently fail and lead to a significant increase in emissions of various pollutants – and this is what Bentek claims happens on the two days it examines. Using the amount of pollution emitted by Cherokee over the full day (rather than just the pollution emitted during the wind variation event), Bentek claims that the extra emissions released by the plant as a consequence of cycling are more than are displaced by using wind. They then claim that this is a strong justification for replacing the coal plant with a new gas plant. This is what the plant’s owners are actually doing, which must come as welcome news to the gas companies who commissioned the report.

This implies that adding wind to an electricity grid that contains lots of old coal plant would not result in many emissions savings. Unfortunately for Bentek’s analysis, the emissions from Colorado’s electricity generating plant have been decreasing since wind came onto the system, by nearly the same amount as the added wind capacity. Wind events of the magnitude used by Bentek’s report are rare – far more common sources of cycling are daily changes in demand levels, which you can see in Figure II-7 in Bentek’s report. Indeed, Bentek did not present us with the changes in generation for the days they analysed beyond the times of the wind event, making it very difficult to claim that only that event caused the rise in emissions. It’s therefore not clear at all that cycling caused by wind leads to a net rise in emissions even from old coal plants. However, this doesn’t stop Kent Hawkins from claiming that using gas to balance wind leads to a net increase emissions.

How to make your own Wind Myth #2: Refer to articles that disagree with you as evidence for your myth and hope no-one checks your references

Hawkins uses a methodology similar to that used by Warren Katzenstein and Jay Apt in their article ‘Air Emissions Due To Wind And Solar Power’. Somehow he neglects to mention that Katzenstein and Apt find that renewable energy does result in a net carbon emission decrease – although not as much as has been previously claimed. Katzenstein and Apt’s article relies on a model containing four wind farms, a solar plant and a single gas turbine generator. For comparison’s sake, there are 51 gas plants in the UK, many containing multiple generators, and 264 operational wind farms.

Using data from a very small sample of wind farms presents a problem for their model – wind power variability from a small geographic model is very different from wind power variability from widely distributed wind farms, as this report for Greenpeace shows. Hawkin’s response to this issue as raised by Michael Milligan in ‘Wind Power Myths Debunked‘ fails to get to grips with the reasons why this has an impact on emissions rising as a consequence of variability. He claims that more wind on the system results in more absolute variability from wind – which is trivially obvious, as there’s more scope for the power output to go up and down. However, what’s relevant in calculating the increased emissions from cycling plant is the speed and the intensity with which wind events happen – as the Bentek report showed. Ramping up fossil fuel plants more quickly results in increased emissions, whereas being able to increase or decrease generation more slowly reduces the heat rate of plant. That’s why a small-scale model won’t properly capture the real impact of wind on cycling emissions.

How to make your own Wind Myth #3: Imply that small-scale models are the same as the real world

To demonstrate how wind power works in the UK, consider this wind speed map. It is immediately obvious that not only is the wind always blowing somewhere, but also that it is not the same everywhere at the same time – which Hawkin’s assertion that wind power is stochastic implies. Rather, wind is a series of flows of varying intensity. To illustrate how this affects the variability of wind generation, imagine you’re throwing tennis balls at a small-scale turbine, causing it to turn round. The frequency by which you throw tennis balls will cause different amounts of generation from the turbine. If you suddenly start throwing them at a faster rate, then the turbine will produce a generation ‘spike’.

Now imagine you’re throwing tennis balls at a series of turbines, one behind the other. Each ball hits the blade of each turbine in turn. If you suddenly increase the speed at which you’re throwing, it won’t cause an instantaneous increase in all the turbine – rather, it’ll cause generation to increase on a slower curve. It’s this system-wide slower increase that gas turbines will have to compensate for – not the sudden spike of generation from an individual turbine. That’s one of reasons why a wide geographic spread of wind farms is so important, as the Danish experience shows.

Given that no real-world data appears to support Kent Hawkin’s contention, what inspired him to take this approach to wind power? According to a piece he put up on MasterResource in February, his derived the information supporting his work from a document put out by the Renewable Energy Foundation called ‘Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating the Potential Contribution from Wind-Power’, by former senior Esso manager David White. The article makes the same claims – and same mistakes – as the above, by raising the power plant cycling issue but making no quantitative assessment of its impact. It fails to do so because it claims insufficient research has been carried out into this field – although a UKERC report on the same subject identifies a wide variety of papers available when REF’s 2004 report was originally released.

REF is an odd organisation. Despite its name, the majority of its activity involves disseminating anti-wind propaganda. Its funding comes from a variety of wealthy anonymous donors, only a few of whom have been publicly identified. Those we know about include the property magnate Vincent Tchenguiz, whose Consensus Business Group is the major supporter of the core funding of REF. Mr Tchenguiz has previously publicly discussed the likelihood of increased arms spending by Western governments to guard against the enormous floods of people fleeing countries rendered uninhabitable by global warming. He aims to make himself indispensable to arms companies that will be recipients of this increase in spending by functioning as a co-investor on ‘flow-back’ investments these companies are compelled to make with countries who purchase their products.

Curtailing the development of the most mature renewable technology – wind – will result in higher carbon emissions, increasing the likelihood of dangerous climate change.

How to make your own Wind Myth #4: It never hurts to find a rich businessman who stands to benefit from your myth

Mr Tchenguiz isn’t the only public figure associated with REF. The organisation’s first chairman – who only stepped down in February of this year – was Noel Edmonds. He joined REF following a prospective development near his home in Devon when the organisation was formed in 2004. We can therefore pinpoint the origin of the No Displacement wind myth quite accurately – it comes from Crinkley Bottom. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere…

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9 Responses to “Anatomy of a Wind Myth”

  1. “The ideological underpinnings of this site can be demonstrated in Bradley’s belief in the economic doctrine of ‘resourceship’, which claims that resources are not limited by the quantity present in the Earth but rather the ingenuity of man to extract them. This means, in essence, that if peak oil becomes a reality it’ll be because we weren’t intelligent enough to find more – not that there was no more to find. We’ll leave it to the reader to decide on the merits of this doctrine.”

    That decision is quite easy: he’s right. As long, of course, as we put in the relevant qualifier that everyone on both sides seems to drop.

    Absolutely no one says that there is an unlimited number of copper atoms on the planet, that we can therefore use copper to our hearts content, that we don’t have to think of it as an economic good.

    What is being said is that the number of copper atoms on the planet is not the “relevant” limit. The relevant limit is all about how badly we want to use copper, how much we know about where there are ore bodies, what we know about extracting copper from those ore bodies, how cheaply we can do that prospecting and extraction…in short, upon the level of technology that we have available to get some portion of the planetary number of copper atoms in a pile where we can use them.

    Copper extraction is, after all, a Bronze Age technology but we’re still making progress: the last major technological advance was in 1968 when the SW/EX process was invented….so, 3,000 years down the line we’re still expanding the number of copper atoms that are available to us (by enabling us to process certain mixed oxide and sulfate ores) while of course we’ve not changed the total number on the planet in the slightest.

    Now, as regards peak oil: absolutely none of the studies or blog posts or even Kunstler’s rants are saying that there will be no oil. They’re all saying that there’ll be some combination of supply/demand, technological restrictions, possibly production bottlenecks, which will cause the problem. That we’re not going to run up against the limit of all the oil molecules on hte planet: that we’re going to run up against a lack of knowledge of how to get as much of it as we want at the price we’re willing to pay.

    Which means that the “resourceship” argument is actually correct: as it is with copper, iron and almost all other raw materials.

    There are one or two (tellurium comes to mind Clark number of 0.2) where we really might find that the relevant limit is the number of atoms on the planet but for almost all it just isn’t.

  2. declineofthelogos said

    The ‘resourceship’ position is one I’m relatively new to, so it’s possible that I’m misinterpreting Bradley’s position, but from this paper: http://www.politicalcapitalism.org/aboutrb/Resourceship.pdf he appears to be arguing for a stronger stance than you’re advocating above. He’s arguing for a breakdown of the distinction between renewable and non-renewable resources at the ‘social science and applied economics’ level, which of course includes politics. This has policy implications; most notably that any level of resource exploitation is acceptable, as in the event of shortages alternatives will be supplied. The problems arise in the lead-times for those alternatives – energy, as MasterResource rightly points out, is that which our entire economy relies. Leaving energy security to faith in future technological developments and entrepeuners seems something of a risk – a risk which is not wholly borne out by the historical record. We’ve been using oil for so long that diversifying our energy sources would be a sensible move in any case.

  3. A.H. Gillett said

    It’s all very well to take the ‘resourceship’ line and promise magical extraction jam tomorrow if one is putting in a bid for research funding. But it can’t offer an energy output or a product, and it doesn’t exactly inspire much passion or do much good on the current market in this speculative state. It’s an ‘investment in the future’ which oil firms will naturally push – all very well and good for science but still rather sorry and bad if scientists haven’t the energy to light their labs while researching saline pumps.

    I’ve no problem with their scientific zeal (we live in exciting times for science) but I take issue with the rubbishing of proven end-products i.e. wind turbines, simply because some would rather wait for antigravity and jetpacks. It doesn’t matter if the current turbines are Betamaxes waiting for VHS. They work, they’re capital investment now and as such exactly what the markets need – not the ramblings of sci-fi fans with vested interests.

  4. Kent Hawkins said

    My response to the comments by Anatomy of a Wind Myth have been delayed due to the press of other activities. There is little merit in the analysis and knowledge of the matters raised by the author of “Anatomy”, and this will be dealt with quickly here. Here are some highlights:

    • The author depends extensively upon ad hominem arguments, which is a very questionable tactic in this type of discussion.
    • I did not help write the le Pair and de Groot paper. Their method of analysis is quite different from that used in my calculator. I did point out some mathematical issues in one of the tables, which the authors acknowledged, and they do cite one of my papers. Neither of these, or both together, is hardly evidence that I “helped to write” their paper.
    • The author points out the presence of a reasonable, standard warranty disclaimer in the Bentek report, which is presumably done in an attempt to cast doubt on its results.
    • In the analysis of the Bentek Colorado case, he makes the all-too-frequent, and ill-informed, mistake of assuming the fossil-fuel electricity production is directly related to emissions. The two are not well correlated, say year over year, for many reasons including changes in: (1) the mix of fuels, (2) actual despatch of available generation resources, (3) net interstate trade in electricity, (4) introduction of new plants and retirement of old, and (5) installed technology that improve the efficiency of a plant or that incorporate technologies for removing emissions. A good example of this can be seen at http://www.masterresource.org/2010/09/windpower-overblown-part-ii/#more-11930 in Figure 3.
    • In his criticism of the Bentek Colorado analysis (some of which is reasonable), he does not mention their analysis of the Texas case, which confirms the admittedly more limited Colorado results.
    • The author does not understand the Katzenstein and Apt study. His points are addressed in Part II to this post at (http://www.masterresource.org/2009/11/wind-integration-incremental-emissions-from-back-up-generation-cycling-part-ii/ and with a more careful look at the cited report. Katzenstein and Apt properly point out the limitations of their analysis. The casual reader might miss this.
    • With respect to the Milligan report, see my critique of this at http://www.masterresource.org/2009/12/wind-integration-incremental-emissions-from-back-up-generation-cycling-part-iii-response-to-comments/
    • As I have pointed out elsewhere (http://www.masterresource.org/2009/12/wind-integration-incremental-emissions-from-back-up-generation-cycling-part-iii-response-to-comments/ , the correlation of production between wind plants up to distances of 1,000 km, and more, is still positive. Zero correlation would produce a random result with increased range of variation. Any smoothing effect would require significant negative correlation. As in the case of help from improved forecasting of wind well in advance and for short time intervals (significantly sub-hour) is a faint hope.

    In summary, there is not much in the way of bones in this “anatomy”.

  5. declineofthelogos said

    Dear Mr Hawkins,

    Many thanks for getting back to me, even though you clearly felt my piece to be rude enough to merit being rude yourself. I should perhaps advise you that ‘ad hominem’ arguments rely on dismissing an opponent’s position by virtue of the nature of that opponent; merely pointing out their origin as I have done here does not count as such, otherwise your statement in your Windpower Overblown piece:

    “But as vice president of environmental policy for the energy company, Prager is not a disinterested party. But it’s the evidence that’s important, not his testimonial.”

    would fall under the same heading. It’s important to inform your readers of the provenance of arguments, as it alerts them to any bias; for this reason I linked to my day job at the head of my article to show that I campaign for renewable energy on behalf of an industry trade association. It’s also very important to point out when an article is written by Kent Hawkins, because you consistently use exactly the same flawed method of argument, which I identify in point 2 above. You refer to references that don’t actually support your case and hope no-one checks up; seemingly on the assumption that they’ll lend some kind of pseudo-scientific credibility to your argument.

    For example, in the ‘Wind Overblown’ article you present as a counter to AWEA’s response to the Bentek paper, you claim that a more plausible explanation for the reduction in fossil fuel use & CO2 emissions in Colorado in 2007-08 is the import of electricity from other states, which rose significantly in this period, by about 3 million MWh. You say this is a much more likely explanation for the fall in fossil fuel use than additional wind on the system.

    Fortunately, we have a directly comparable period in which there was little wind on the system, 2001-02. Electricity imports rose by about 6.6 million MWh, while fossil fuel generation fell by about…1 million MWh. The disparity was caused by the overall disposition of Colorado’s grid rising by about 5 million MWh. This disposition figure is something you omit from your article, which is surprising given that it rose between 2007-08 by about 2.5 million MWh. Of the electricity imported, only 0.5 million MWh was available to displace fossil fuel generation, which fell by 2.5 million MWh in the same period. Wind generation rose by about 1.9 million MWh. Interestingly, overall generation by Colorado’s utilities and independents fell by 0.5 million MWh. It’s almost as though electricity is imported to meet shortfalls in generation capacity caused by unexpected demand, rather than to displace fossil fuel plant. It’s almost as though that’s how grids operate everywhere in the world, which I find surprising that you don’t know.

    Looking up your references is in fact very useful if one wishes to make the case for wind power, as one will find – if one compares tables 5 and 7 from the data you link to – that the carbon factor of natural gas actually fell in the period 07-08 when the proportion of electricity generated by wind rose by a factor of nearly 2, which is the opposite to what you’ve predicted. Real data is such a bitch, isn’t it. To be fair, the carbon factor of coal did rise slightly in the same period, even if the overall emissions from coal plant were down. I imagine your response will be a mix of the factors you gave against bullet point 4, but you’ll have to give specifics (i.e. actual plant operation changes, facilities shut down etc.) for it to count as a valid argument rather than an assertion.

    This isn’t the most egregious offence against referencing, though. You cite as evidence that geographical distribution has little to no impact on wind variability a paper that concludes:

    “From these results we conclude that spatial diversity does mitigate variability for a given fleet of wind generation.” – Adams & Cadieux, 2009

    Adams & Cadeiux do indicate that mitigation is relatively small for topologically fairly uniform Ontario, but substantial for Germany, which has a much larger wind fleet. Their Ontario study is arguably a little flawed; a wind fleet largely split between two geographic locations does not necessarily provide sufficient data to adjudicate one way or another. Despite this, it does rather dramatically indicate the impact of geographical dispersion on wind smoothing – the 5 minute resolution data they acquired shows that the maximum output swing dropped from 50.3% of capacity for a single farm to 21.4% of capacity when the entire fleet was factored in. Your assertion that ‘Any smoothing effect would require a significant negative correlation’ is in direct contradiction to the evidence you cite to back it up.

    It’s this rapidity of output change that’s relevant for your incremental emissions argument, as you are well aware. Your focus on absolute variability is disingenuous in this sense; the additional emissions from the Cherokee plant in Colorado are partly caused by exceeding the design limits for the plant’s ramp rate. Wind smoothing will help compensate for this; additional plant for wind shadowing is a separate issue.

    If this discussion is going to serve any useful purpose, I would request that you publish your calculator in full, so that everyone is able to check your working. I am uncertain why you didn’t do this from the start, rather than simply presenting the results as facts.

    Regards,

    Adam

  6. Kent Hawkins said

    I did not allege rudeness in your article, nor was I rude in my response. One has to question the purpose in your bringing up this notion at the beginning of your last response.

    I maintain my position that ad hominem arguments are not appropriate in this type of discussion. I have never (I hope) criticized a wind proponent’s view based on an affiliation with the wind industry. Of course you may choose to persist in using this form of argument, if you think it strengthens your case. That is your privilege.

    You did not withdraw your remarks alleging my involvement in the writing of the le Pair and de Groot study, nor did you do the same with respect to the Katzenstein and Apt study limitations, which are clear to the careful reader. Also you did not respond to my criticism of the Milligan report, which you referenced in your article. Instead you chose to introduce additional comments. This type of discussion is more productive if we stay on point first (that is your original article) and introduce additional information second. Otherwise you look like you are resorting to shifting the grounds of the discussion.

    In the “Overblown” article you appear to suggest that I make claims. First, I did not bring up this article in this discussion. Second, your comments seem to suggest that this is my paper. It was written by Jon Boone. My view on this topic is that Goggin/AWEA claim, because wind production increased and fossil fuel production fell, that this is a “case closed” argument that wind caused the fall. Using the same level of argument, the case can be made that interstate imports caused the reduction in in-state fossil fuel production. Of course the matter is more complicated than that as I pointed out in my above comments. Your continued laying out of other interesting, but relatively incomplete analysis, do not make the point. In the “Overblown” article there is a chart that shows that CO2 emissions are not strongly correlated to fossil fuel electricity production (they are related to fossil fuel consumption), which is a common mistake. Other factors must be understood and evaluated before drawing conclusions.

    With respect to wind dispersion issue, you have provided a “quote” from the paper, which, on the surface, suggests that the authors came to the opposite conclusion than I represented. There is bound to be some mitigation which they acknowledge, because positive correlation decreases with distance. However their conclusions are better represented by the complete wording of the first paragraph of their conclusion, (which includes something like your quote, but I could not find what you show exactly as a quote):

    “Spatial diversity of wind development does not solve the challenges for the grid associated with output variability, but spatial diversity does mitigate variability for a given fleet of wind generation. Adding a distant wind farm to a fleet of wind farms fills the valleys of average output and drops the standard deviation of output by a small fraction but also increases the peaks of output. If wind power output swings or peaks are challenging the load balancing capacity of the power system, distance between wind farms does not help.”

    Note that the valleys of average output are filled. Averages should not be used to show the real time impacts, which are of much more importance.

    As I indicated in my above comments, positive correlation increases the range of variability, which is also an important factor in balancing the wind output (in addition to other real time effects). This has been the case in any jurisdiction where I have seen any analysis made. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would be glad to see it. Further, grid topology (perhaps this is what you were referring to) is an important factor in limiting aggregation of wind output and impacts are experienced on a more local basis. With respect to Germany, mitigation of wind variability is achieved through widespread use of wind production curtailment, not any reliance on dispersion.

    My calculator has always been available as indicated on my posts. I have sent it to anyone who has asked.

    This is your site and you will now have the last word in this discussion.

  7. Kent Hawkins said

    This is to correct a mistake in my last comment. I did bring up the “Overblown” article in an earlier comment. It was in reference to a chart in that article that illustrated my point on the absence of a correlation between fossil fuel electricity production and CO2 emissions.

  8. declineofthelogos said

    It may be worth pointing out that I am used to a relatively robust level of discussion on this subject based on the typical work of UK-based libertarians (e.g. http://www.devilskitchen.me.uk) and your phrase:

    “There is little merit in the analysis and knowledge of the matters raised by the author of “Anatomy”, and this will be dealt with quickly here.”

    And:

    “In summary, there is not much in the way of bones in this “anatomy”.

    Led me to believe that you intended to discuss the matter in manner that if not rude, was certainly discourteous. My mention of it was merely intended to advertise the fact that the discussion would continue in this manner. Of course, if you would prefer a polite discussion, I will gladly respond in kind.

    With this in mind, it is worth once again pointing out that you are using the notion of ‘ad hominem’ arguments incorrectly – my original article did not dispute the truthfulness of statements based on their origin, but pointed out their source in a manner which implied potential bad faith on the part of those who put them forward. As I mentioned above, you are guilty of this yourself with respect to Prager, but for the following I shall assume that you are committed to determining the truth of this matter and are discussing this issue in good faith.

    With regard to the le Pair and de Groot study, I regret that I am unable to withdraw my remarks, as the purpose of the article you wrote which references that study was to compare the study with the results of your calculator. However, the element of that study on which you based your comparison was their Table 3, to which you contributed. It seemed odd to not mention that. The overall point about referencing studies to which an unacknowledged contribution had been made stands. Again, we come to the question of what constitutes arguing in bad faith – declarations of contribution would serve to eliminate that.

    In respect of the Katzenstein and Apt article, I withdraw the claim that you did not recognise that the article demonstrates a net decrease in carbon emissions, as you clearly did in your response to the Milligan paper. However, given that you failed to acknowledge the limitations of the study in terms of quantity of generation in your own work and referenced it as useful for a calculator intended to work on an entire grid, it is not unreasonable to point this out as a potential consideration.

    In terms of shifting the discussion – you must realise that the paragraph in the original article in which I reference your handling of the Milligan article was to accuse you of doing the same. You brought up parts of the article which had no bearing on the incremental emissions issue, and devoted much of your response to these – only using a single paragraph to dismiss his efficiency loss claims on the slightly spurious grounds of the age of the studies involved – even though the UKERC paper refers to much more recent studies too. This is a rather strong case of arguing in bad faith, exacerbated by referring to the UKERC paper in your article’s bibliography as ‘generally favourable to wind’, the only such qualifier for any article in that bibliography.

    Let us agree that the only variables which have an impact on the incremental emissions issue are (a) the rate of change of wind generation over time and (b) the relative efficiency loss in the wind balancing plant. Absolute variability has no relevance if the balancing plant is ramped up and down will within its design parameters and there is little to no resultant loss of efficiency. The issue is whether the rate of change is reduced by a wider geographical spread, not whether absolute variability is reduced by a wider spread. Therefore, the quote you supply from the Adam & Cadieux paper is irrelevant to the matter at hand; the quote I supplied is from page 11 of the paper, third line down. I have no idea why you would dispute the provenance of the quote. I am referring to this paper: http://tomadamsenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/windpowergeodiversitybenefits_adams_cadieux-colour-graphs-and-citation1.pdf, which you linked to from this article: http://www.masterresource.org/2009/12/wind-integration-incremental-emissions-from-back-up-generation-cycling-part-iii-response-to-comments/. Your claim that ‘Any smoothing effect would require significant negative correlation’ is irrelevant in this sense; all that’s require to reduce the rate of change is correlation lower than 1.

    The ‘Overblown’ article’s chart refers simply to fossil fuel generation and CO2 emissions. I am astonished you are referencing this to claim that there is no correlation between the two, as you well know that the emissions profiles for fossil fuels vary depending on the fuel used – and simply comparing the data in the tables referenced in that article demonstrates that there is a strong correlation between the emissions of relevant fuel types and the generation sourced from each. ‘Fossil fuels’ in the aggregate is a relatively useless term here.

    To establish the AWEA claim, it is merely necessary to consider the alternate case for each potential source of electricity. If the generation represented by imported electricity was replaced by out-of-state fossil fuel generation, then it would have no impact on Colorado’s emissions figures, as we can see from the 01-02 case, as they only factor in native generation. If the wind were to be replaced by native gas generation, then it would displace 1442117.136 tonnes of carbon, according to the carbon factor that year. Of course, your calculator would dispute that, but given that the carbon factor of Colorado’s gas generation was 0.02 tonnes/MWh higher in 2007 when there was significantly less wind generation, it would be difficult to sustain.

    I do not seek to have the last word, but to continue this discussion. If you are genuinely discussing this matter in good faith, then we both have something gain by doing so.

  9. declineofthelogos said

    Oh, and on the subject of your calculator: I am not accusing you of bad faith in not publishing it, merely pointing out that not having a publicly accessible version reduces the scope for public comment and makes it difficult to evaluate earlier versions against later versions.

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