Doomed Planet

Things That Go Slump in the Night

Severe wind droughts are prolonged spells with next to no wind across continental areas. They also exist offshore as any sailor who has been becalmed knows full well. Wind droughts will kill the green-power fantasy, and they have the potential to deal a massive blow to our lifestyle, depending as we do on abundant, reliable and affordable power. While meteorologists don’t mention them, independent Australian observers discovered wind droughts over a decade ago but nobody took any notice. We may pay a bitter price for this neglect.

Serious questions have to be asked about the silence of meteorologists on wind droughts. At the same time the responsible authorities should be called to account for their failure to check the wind supply before connecting intermittent energy to the grid.

Why wind won’t work

Wind and solar cannot provide reliable power at grid-scale and the reason is as simple as ABC:  Input to the grid must continuously match the demand, and the continuity of wind and solar input fails on nights with little or no wind.

  1. The amount of storage required to bridge the gaps is not feasible or affordable.

Supporters of the transition to intermittent energy invoke a “holy trinity” of strategies to ride through wind drought. These are (1) long-distance transmission lines to shift power from areas of plenty to drought zones, (2) pumped hydro storage, and (3) battery storage.

Long distance transmission lines will not help because wind droughts can extend across the whole of SE Australia. On the other side of the world they have been known to extend across all of western Europe.

Pumped hydro at the scale required appears to be out of the question. There is no substantial pumped hydro scheme in the world that runs on wind and solar power alone.

As for batteries, we read practically every day that more “big batteries” are coming but “big” is an abuse of language in this context because the capacity of even the biggest batteries, like the 1.4GWh Waratah Super Battery in NSW, is negligible compared with the power required in a single night in the grid. That is in the order of 300GWh, while the total capacity of all the battery projects in the pipeline amount to some 60GWh and the batteries at work in the system at present can deliver only 3GWh.

The plan devised by the market operator (AEMO) calls for a ninefold increase in the amount of installed wind and solar capacity, but all that capacity will deliver a pitifully small amount of power on nights with little or no wind. Such nights are the limiting factor for the whole system like the slowest ship in a convoy or weakest link in a chain.

The threat of wind droughts

Subsidised and mandated intermittent energy providers drive out conventional power plants because they can make money when the market price is too low for conventional providers to run profitably. The unreliables can displace conventional power but they can’t replace it!  Eventually there will not be enough reliable (dispatchable) power to meet 100 per cent of the demand. At that point, the power supply will be compromised whenever the wind is low overnight.

The day of reckoning has been delayed by the modest increase in demand in recent years due to creeping deindustrialization — directly caused by the increasing cost of power. As the coal generating capacity runs down, the pinch will first occur for a few hours at the dinnertime peak of demand. That can be met using the deceptively named Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader Scheme (RETS).  This sounds like a reserve supply, but it functions by diverting power from major users (with compensation) to protect the integrity of the grid and avoid inconvenience for the community at large. In other words, industrial production stops so he the community’s lights stay on!

If the RETS diversions of supply is not enough, rolling blackouts can be organized to handle the shortfall. As the process goes on, there will eventually not be enough conventional power to service the base load, the minimum that is required day and night. At that point, whenever the wind is low overnight there will be blackouts, and we will officially achieve the status of a Third World country.

Since 2012, 12 coal power stations have closed in South-Eastern Australia, taking out some 8GW of capacity, which in total is down to 22GW. We are now only one coal station closure away from a power crisis whenever the wind is low overnight. The problem surfaced in June 2022 when outages in some coal stations created a crisis that was met by using gas, which spiked the price of gas, and hence the wholesale price of power.

This was seen as a problem with the price of gas, to be solved by government intervention and a price cap. It should have been seen as an early warning of what was coming if the capacity of coal power continued to run down. Gas is too expensive to be used outside peak periods. In addition, there are serious concerns about the availability of gas going forward.  

Energy realists know that we will have to burn coal for many years, yet the state of Victoria has ambitious plans to get rid of coal while they also have confidential deals with two power stations to maintain supply. Similarly the biggest coal plant in the country, Eraring in NSW, will continue with publicly funded life support beyond the scheduled closing date next year.

A worldwide menace

It is not entirely facetious to suggest that wind droughts could undermine Western civilization, or at least the way of life that depends on a continuous supply of affordable electric power. As noted above, as wind and solar power displace reliable, conventional coal-fired power, a time will come when there is not enough conventional power to meet the demand. ie., when the sun and wind are off duty. Germany and Great Britain have reached that point, and they survive with the help of imported power, while they shed power-intensive industries.  In short, they bet the farm on wind power and lost.

The same problem is looming wherever net zero strategies are in place. Texas had a critical situation in Feb 2021 although in that instance the wind and solar enthusiasts could point out that the gas system was also disrupted by the cold conditions. Subsequently the gas supply has been winterized to the standard of the colder northern states so it will perform in future. In contrast, there is nothing people can do to prevent windless nights.

The power authorities in some 19 US states have signalled there will be grave problems with reliability in the power supply in as little as three or four years if EPA regulations and the incentives to deliver unreliable wind and solar power continue to drive out fossil fuel.

To meteorologists, silence is golden

Questions have to be asked about the failure of the meteorologist to issue wind drought warnings which could and should have averted the connection of subsidised intermittent energy to the grid.

Meteorologists are the official custodians of weather records around the world but the customary metric for wind resources is the average wind velocity which of course hides both the low and the high points, each of which are unsuitable for power generation from wind turbines.  Official meteorological records are still not reporting low wind periods in the way that they report every other kind of extreme weather.

Wind droughts had a low profile after the doldrums in sub-tropical latitudes ceased to be a concern when steamers replaced ships under sail. Even the prolonged European Dunkelflautes (still and dark periods) did not arouse attention until they precipitated the crisis in the power supply in 2021, when the cost of power in Britain and Germany surged, even before the war in Ukraine further aggravated the situation. An entry for Dunkelflautes only appeared in Wikipedia in October 2020 although mariners at sea must have known them from time immemorial and millers on land must have experienced them for centuries. H G Wells wrote in 1901 that windmills were not suitable for pumping water from coal mines because “a gang might sit at a pithead for a month, whistling for a gale.”

Apparently some people were aware of wind droughts a hundred years ago and it remains to be seen how the meteorologists explain their silence on the matter. As for offshore wind developments, perhaps those who approve such projects should read Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

Australians led the world in wind-watching. Over a decade ago, Anton Lang and the Paul Miskelly clearly identified the danger of wind droughts in Australia, but their work escaped the attention of the responsible authorities and is still virtually unknown. They used the AEMO records of continuous wind power generation to decisively refute the view that Australia has superb wind resources, which had been accepted in official circles, based on the average wind speeds reported by the local Bureau of Meteorology and the conclusions of numerous academic studies. The landmark paper appeared here in 2012.

Duringcalendar year 2010 the total wind output across the grid fell rapidly to zero or near zero on 109 occasions in the year. These low wind periods (not yet called wind droughts) occurred when high-pressure systems fell over most of the continent, moving from west to east as shown on the weather maps displayed in the newspaper and TV weather reports.

In 2010 there were only 23 wind farms and less than 2GW of installed capacity. Hopes were high that the supply would become more reliable as sites became more numerous and widespread. This is not happening, with over 11GW installed, and the records show that prolonged wind droughts still occur across SE Australia, most recently for three days in August 2023.

Lang was an RAAF electrician in 2008, when he first started to report his observations on a private blog. His posts are still appearing regularly and there are now several thousand posts on various aspects of the performance of the wind fleet and the other sources of power as well. This is a remarkable achievement and it must be one of the most sustained, singlehanded, unfunded research projects on record.

ITS ALL OVER FOR WIND AND SOLAR ON THE GRID

Wind droughts happen all over the world and they are a fatal impediment to the net zero program.

Given the failure of the official meteorologists to issue warnings, there is a need for two high-level inquires. One should aim to discover why the officials never warned the public or the responsible authorities about the fatal threat to the power supply. Was it incompetence, negligence or something else? That inquiry should be replicated in all the countries with official meteorological offices and its should extend to the World Meteorological Organizer that was a foundation member of the climate alarmists club. The other inquiry in Australia would aim to identify the agencies that failed to conduct due diligence on the wind supply before wind and solar power were allowed to connect to the grid. Imagine building the infrastructure for a massive irrigation project without an exhaustive study of the water supply, including all the available rainfall records.

In the absence of due diligence, tens of billions of dollars have been added to the national debt to allow subsidised and mandated intermittent energy to enfeeble the grid in one of the most costly policy blunders in peacetime. In return for the expense we have got less reliable and more expensive energy, causing domestic hardship and a great deal of unrecorded deindustrialisation. At the same time there has been massive environmental damage and division in regional communities. In short, there has been a colossal negative return with an enormous threat to the nation’s security and prosperity.

20 thoughts on “Things That Go Slump in the Night

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good one Rafe and spot on in my mind.
    The problem with the worlds Meteorologists seems to lie more with their official controlling bodies, not necessarily with the individual meteorologist, e.g the American Anthony Watts is a meteorologist and his site wattsupwiththat.com critiques extensively the theory of dangerous anthropogenic global warming come climate change.
    Also from what I’ve read on his site most of the agreeing articles and comments seem to be from scientists of one persuasion or another, including meteorology. The message is well and truly out there backed up with science, so when the crunch comes the political class cannot use the excuse that “nobody told them”.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON says:

    Twenty eight thousand kilometers of new, specialist grid to cater to the unique electrical energy characteristics of renewables. the limitations of battery technology, the social upheaval in rural communities due to commandeering of rural resources in order to fulfill the fantasy of making Australia the world’s renewable energy superpower, all relentlessly pushed by fanatics like Chris Bowen, the Greens/Labour Party and feckless Teals. This is showing all the indications of a looming energy disaster where Australia will become the world’s renewable energy super-wreck. What are the odds that by the time Australia’s energy economy is in a shambles that the aforementioned renewables fanatics will have retired to a comfortable isolated bubble somewhere on their fabulous retirement benefits with all the lurkes and perks whilst the rest of us and our children try to survive on what’s left of our once great nation.

    • Citizen Kane says:

      Good luck finding a bookie who will give you odds on that!

      Before completely withdrawing from the political sphere there is the usual transitional phase through a high paying low output corporate, board or diplomatic gig – shout out to the dishonourable Matt Keen.

  • Tony Tea says:

    The world’s renewable power super-laughing-stock.

    • Belinda Conibear says:

      Agree pathetic. As for wind droughts, when I studied European History there were many references to the big sailing ships, 500 years ago, becalmed by lack of wind for weeks on end.

  • bobmbell39 says:

    A simple solution build some modern coal fired power stations. We need more greening so more co2 is a good thing according to many experts. As Professor Ian Plimer notes why does global warming start at around 1850 and not take into account the medieval period when temperatures were higher than now.

    • Rafe Champion says:

      Coal will be the cheapest form of power for decades to come, with the bonus of additional plant food.

      It is a mature technology and new plants could be in place in two or three years, a bit late but there is no alternative if we want to continue to live like a first world nation.

      It will be a tough two or three years because we are in a very precarious situation.
      https://newcatallaxy.blog/2023/07/11/approaching-the-tipping-point/

      Change the narrative, lets be energy realists and protect the planet at the same time.
      https://www.flickerpower.com/images/Change_the_narrative_change_the_game___The_Spectator_Australia.pdf

      And start developing an exit strategy from the net zero program.
      https://www.flickerpower.com/images/Looking_for_the_Net_Zero_exit_sign___The_Spectator_Australia.pdf

      • Max Chugg says:

        I beg to differ about the ability of coal to compete with nuclear energy in the current climate where such a negative attitude to carbon prevails.
        The price of electricity in Finland showed a decrease in May 2024, when it amounted to 35 euros per megawatt-hour. With an Australian dollar worth 1.6 euros, the cost per kilowatt hour is $21.87 for 1000 kilowatt hours.
        Nuclear power provides a third of Finland’s electricity. Finland aims to become carbon neutral by 2035, putting it fourth in the world and ahead of every other country in Europe.
        The average wholesale electricity price in Sweden stood at roughly 23 euros per megawatt-hour in May 2024, down from 48 euros per megawatt-hour in the previous month. Equivalent to $14.37 for 1000 kilowatt hours.
        Hydro and nuclear power were the main sources of electricity generation in Sweden in 2022, accounting for 41 and 29 percent of the country’s supply, respectively. Sweden is one of the global leaders in decarbonization, with clean energy sources – including hydropower, nuclear, wind, and solar – representing approximately 90 percent of the country’s electricity mix.
        It should be mentioned that Finland and Denmark still use wind and solar to produce electricity.

    • geoff rankin says:

      Our coal-fired plants should never have been shut down. But, the zealots and carpetbagger zillionaires needed a reason to build their wind turbines and solar panels at the insidious expense of the Australian taxpayer. As China has done, the technology is now available to construct high-tech plants that scrub out particulate matter and toxic gases such as SO2 and nitrous oxides.

      The other factor corrupting the climate issue is that CO2 gas is a significant warming influence and a pollutant. The coalition still persists with the nonsense that the trace gas, CO2′, as well as methane, must be abated, or we shall all roast in hell.

      All the warming due to CO2 gas in the atmosphere has already occurred as the gas is now saturated, and methane is at such a low concentration that it contributes very little. Also, the warming effect of each molecule of CO2 decreases significantly and logarithmically as its concentration increases in the atmosphere so that for a doubling of the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere, there is a temperature rise of only 0.7 degrees C. This temperature change is not discernible to any man or beast.

      Earth has ‘greened’ by 15 percent over the last 15 years – about the area of the USA, as CO2 levels rise. Deserts bloom, and lower latitudes produce more vegetation due to CO2 rising in the atmosphere to produce food for plant life, plankton, and, ultimately, humans and livestock. Plants also require less water to survive in marginal regions.

      CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is the only carbon source for all life on Earth, be it for plants, animals, fungi, or bacteria. This original reaction occurs through photosynthesis and then food chains. On a dry-weight basis, all biomass consists of almost 50% carbon. CO2 is the most important nutrient of life, yet it is demonised by the uninformed and those bereft of scientific acumen. It is the Achille’s heel of the climate dispute.

      2022 Nobel Prize winner in physics John Clauser has a way with words in saying, “There is no correlation between temperature change and carbon dioxide – it is all a crock of crap.”

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    The lack of sailing ships plying the oceans is a practical demonstration of intermittent wind power, so too Gyro Gear loose contraptions powered by sail and solar panels are not evident on our highways and byways, nor do Qantas et al employ the use of hot air balloons. Everyone including Minister Bowen and P.M. Albenese must know that the sun sets each evening and thus solar arrays are useless for eight or so hours, but the most telling stuff about this renewable energy business is that not one single advocate has actually built a small village or “collective” and runs that entity solely on renewable energy and manufactures all the goods and services associated with the running of a village/town/collective. The short answer is that they cannot do anything of the kind. Electricity generated by nuclear plants is one answer but what of the expense when compared to electricity generated by our seams of coal running from Wilsons Prom to Cape York for when living and working in France from 1990 onwards our household electricity costs were enormous compared to our Australian costs, something like AUD $50 a week in France compared to about $50 a quarter in Sydney.

    • PeterPetrum says:

      “”Everyone including Minister Bowen and P.M. Albenese must know that the sun sets each evening and thus solar arrays are useless for eight or so hours,””

      Not sure if Albo does – I saw him say that the future was in EVs and solar panels because you could charge your car up from the panels overnight!

  • ianl says:

    The randomness of wind and regular intermittency of sunshine are the true Achilles Heel of renewabubbles. This central fact has always been avoided, or even denied, by activists for decades now.

    These people just cannot admit it. Data collection and analyses by Anton Lang are quite deliberately ignored, or dismissed with the two “infills” of pumped hydro and grid scale batteries listed in the article here.

    In my view, there will never be any independent inquiry into why this happens. Ideologues cannot question their ideology, they simply refuse to. We now have the situation where gas supply for domestic heating, cooking, hot water is under threat of rationing in both Vic and NSW during a quite cold period of winter because gas storage has been run down to keep peak gas power generators online during a wind drought. There is likelihood of winter 2025 being even more desperate.

  • Libertarian says:

    We’re at step 10 of “The essence of the road to serfdom “.

    But the PM isn’t a ’strong man’.

  • Stan Yeaman says:

    Better ask Macquarie Bank which lost a motsa because of a wind drought in the middle of summer 2023 over the North Sea. They were going to make a killing by buying into UK offshore wind farms, but lost a fortune when the wind didn’t blow. Thankfully the UK had its own and French nuclear power to fill the gap.
    In Australia the utility companies are making a fortune on wind because (1) they have no competition from nuclear or hydro, and (2) they can pass on their costs to their customers. That is why Aussies are paying top price for electricity.

  • Stephen Ireland says:

    Rafe, I fear that your reference to the slowest ship in the convoy will be lost on the modern elites that think that they are in control. In recent education spheres comprehension (remember that?) and learning from the lessons of history run a poor last to environmental and social justice alarmism, both aimed at the wicked capitalism and industrialisation that has underpinned the demonstrable material improvements world-wide over the last century. The ill-defined utopianism of post-modern education will collapse under the coming calamities. Material improvements will also be seen to be illusionary in the bigger picture.

    My following of the AEMO Dashboard tells me that the latest wind drought on the east coast of Australia has occurred right through the Autumn of 2024 and has persisted well into this Winter.

  • Alistair says:

    “To meteorologists, silence is golden”
    The first silence – and the silence that started this whole problem was when meteorologists failed to call out the so-called Hockey-Stick graph which wiped the whole historic climate record out completely – thus removing the Roman Warm Period the the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, elevating the fake climate scare into the boondoggle that it has become … and elevating their own public profiles.

  • Stan Yeaman says:

    For my second comment of the day, let’s invoke a little science. What causes a ‘wind drought’? Simply, it is a barometric high, which brings stable weather. They are the cause of good summer weather and they happen every year. They tend to be large and very slow moving. In WA this year we had a summer wind drought which lasted a month. It covered almost all of the southern half of WA approximately from the tropic of Capricorn. Yes, there would have been lots of solar power for about 7hours of the day, but zero wind power for the rest of the day. That is why it is believed that wind power can be effective for no more than 40% of the 8,760 hours in a year. Yes, gas is available, but doesn’t that totally negate the net-zero objective? 4,000km transmission lines from the eastern states? Forget it, because it was raining for most of the time over in Sydney, so solar power generation would have been pretty weak,- quite apart from huge transmission power losses along these 4,000km wires. The conclusion? There could not have been any serious study of meteorological records by the political policy researshers or the Minister who is pushing this nonsense. Any first year student would have scored a ‘failed’ for such a proposal. It must have been not much more than a thought bubble by those proposing wind power.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    A big wake-up call to all involved in this dangerous fantasy, underwritten by billions of public money. Thank you, RC.
    Perhaps AEMO read it. The CEO sent out a media release today warning how tricky it will be to keep the lights on unless there is a doubling of the current rate of expansion of RE generating capacity.
    As for the day of reckoning, the best hope we have may be a blackout somewhere before the end of winter. Victoria is apparently low on gas and especially vulnerable.

  • Stan Yeaman says:

    A very important piece of news on wind energy,- offshore variety. The prestigious Financial Times recently carried an interview with the CEO of Ørsted AS, the Danish world leader in offshore wind farm construction. He made it clear that offshore wind power will always be expensive. Who should we believe,- the CEO of the company which makes and installs offshore wind generators or the Minister of Energy and CSIRO?

    Alternatively, just ask the CEO of Macquarie Bank why their profits dropped by 32% by investing in wind power. Maybe they were listening to Mr Bowen.

  • David Isaac says:

    Energy insecurity and deindustrialisation in order to prevent any approximation of autarky are the goals of the global regime. Rational arguments against the tools used to achieve this will not be tolerated.

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