Wednesday, March 24, 2021

It takes big energy to back up wind and solar

Power system design can be extremely complex but there is one simple number that is painfully obvious. At least it is painful to the advocates of wind and solar power, which may be why we never hear about it. It is a big, bad number.

To my knowledge this big number has no name, but it should. Let’s call it the “minimum backup requirement” for wind and solar, or MBR. The minimum backup requirement is how much generating capacity a system must have to reliably produce power when wind and solar don’t.

For most places the magnitude of MBR is very simple. It is all of the juice needed on the hottest or coldest low wind night. It is night so there is no solar. Sustained wind is less than eight miles per hour, so there is no wind power. It is very hot or cold so the need for power is very high.

In many places MBR will be close to the maximum power the system ever needs, because heat waves and cold spells are often low wind events. In heat waves it may be a bit hotter during the day but not that much. In cold spells it is often coldest at night.

Thus what is called “peak demand” is a good approximation for the maximum backup requirement. In other words, there has to be enough reliable generating capacity to provide all of the maximum power the system will ever need. For any public power system that is a very big number, as big as it gets in fact.

Actually it gets a bit bigger, because there also has to be margin of safety or what is called “reserve capacity”. This is to allow for something not working as it should. Fifteen percent is a typical reserve in American systems. This makes MBR something like 115% of peak demand.

We often read about wind and solar being cheaper than coal, gas and nuclear power, but that does not include the MBR for wind and solar. What is relatively cheap for wind and solar is the cost to produce a unit of electricity. This is often called LCOE or the “levelized cost of energy”. But adding the reliable backup required to give people the power they need makes wind and solar very expensive.

In short the true cost of wind and solar is LCOE + MBR. This is the big cost you never hear about. But if every state goes to wind and solar then each one will have to have MBR for roughly its entire peak demand. That is an enormous amount of generating capacity.

Of course the cost of MBR depends on the generating technology. Storage is out because the cost is astronomical. Gas fired generation might be best but it is fossil fueled, as is coal. If one insists on zero fossil fuel then nuclear is probably the only option. Operating nuclear plants as intermittent backup is stupid and expensive, but so is no fossil fuel generation.

What is clearly ruled out is 100% renewables, because there would frequently be no electricity at all. That is unless geothermal could be made to work on an enormous scale, which would take many decades to develop.

It is clear that the Biden Administration’s goal of zero fossil fueled electricity by 2035 (without nuclear) is economically impossible because of the minimum backup requirements for wind and solar. You can’t get there from here.

One wonders why we have never heard of this obvious huge cost with wind and solar. The utilities I have looked at avoid it with a trick.

Dominion Energy, which supplies most of Virginia’s juice, is a good example. The Virginia Legislature passed a law saying that Dominion’s power generation had to be zero fossil fueled by 2045. Dominion developed a Plan saying how they would do this. Tucked away in passing on page 119 they say they will expand their capacity for importing power purchased from other utilities. This increase happens to be to an amount equal to their peak demand.

The plan is to buy all the MBR juice from the neighbors! But if everyone is going wind and solar then no one will have juice to sell. In fact they will all be buying, which does not work. Note that the high pressure systems which cause low wind can be huge, covering a dozen or more states. For that matter, no one has that kind of excess generating capacity today.

To summarize, for every utility there will be times when there is zero wind and solar power combined with near peak demand. Meeting this huge need is the minimum backup requirement. The huge cost of meeting this requirement is part of the cost of wind and solar power. MBR makes wind and solar extremely expensive.

The simple question to ask the Biden Administration, the States and their power utilities is this: How will you provide power on hot or cold low wind nights?


When climate alarmism meets cancel culture


Across the world, politicians are now promising climate policies costing tens of trillions of dollars – money we don’t have and resources that are desperately needed elsewhere.

Yet, climate campaigners tell us, if we don’t spend everything on climate now, nothing else matters, because climate change threatens our very civilisation. As US President Joe Biden says: climate change is “an existential threat”.

Yes, climate change is a real problem. However, it is typically vastly exaggerated, and the resulting alarmism is exploited to justify the wasteful spending of trillions.

Pointing this out will get you cancelled. I should know, because I have personally been on the receiving end of this climate alarmism enforcement for years. Last week, I was scheduled to give a public lecture at Duke University in the US when a group of climate-politicised professors – some who write for the UN Climate Panel – publicly asked Duke to cancel my appearance.

One of my presentation points was highlighting the latest full UN Climate Panel report which estimates the total cost of climate change. They found that unmitigated climate change in half a century will reduce general welfare equivalent to lowering each person’s income by between 0.2 and 2 per cent. Given that the UN expects each person on the planet to be much better off – 363 per cent as wealthy as today – climate might cause us to only be 356 per cent as rich by then. That is a problem, but certainly not the end of the world.

Why don’t most people know this? Because stories of catastrophe and human guilt garner more clicks and are better for weaponising political arguments. Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to make good decisions if we’re panicked.

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The political forces looking to spend the climate trillions and the academia segment supplying the fear want to scrub the climate debate of anything but the scariest scenarios. They want an unwavering allegiance to vigorous spending on climate policy, no matter its effectiveness.

They insist on treating this issue as a moral binary choice instead of a realistic balancing of costs and effectiveness which would allow for our many other challenges to be heard as well.

Certainly, the professors at Duke didn’t want anyone to hear dissenting facts.

They tried to stop the lecture through outright lies, such as claiming that my funding comes from Exxon and the Koch brothers. These claims are categorically untrue. They also declared that I had been deemed scientifically dishonest, although the mock trial which originated that claim has been completely overturned and annulled because it contained no arguments.

More worryingly, they raged about how climate catastrophes are so terrible that we should not allow any more climate debate. Yet, their claims were almost uniformly untrue. They said that “much of the Australian continent” had been devoured in climate-induced fire. But we know from satellite measurements, published in Nature, that while the fires near population centres had severe impacts, the total land area burned was 4 per cent – one of the lowest-ever percentages, from an average this century of 6.2 per cent and last century of 10.1 per cent. Four per cent is not “much of the Australian continent”. Such claims are more like rantings from people who have been watching too much alarmist TV.

They claimed that “countless lives” are being lost to climate-related disasters worldwide. Yet, the International Disaster Database shows that in the 2010s, 18,357 people died each year from climate-related impacts such as floods, droughts, storms, wildfire and extreme temperatures. That is the lowest death count in the past century, a 96 per cent decline since the 1920s, despite a larger global population. And 2020 had an even lower death count at 8086.

Yet, we can only know this when we’re allowed to hear facts presented. Thankfully, Duke University didn’t cave to their craven arguments, but the attempts to suppress free speech, facts and knowledge continue.

The easiest way to get societies to authorise the spending of tens of trillions we don’t have is to scare us. The academic and activist faction that sets the threatening tone in the climate conversation want dissent eliminated, leaving themselves the only ones authorised to tell you how scared you should be. To avoid wasting trillions, we should not let them.

Bjorn Lomborg is President of the Copenhagen Consensus and Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book is False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. The original version of this story appeared on the Fox News website.


The EPA Is Failing the American People

March 22 marks the annual observance of World Water Day, a campaign organized by the United Nations. The theme for 2021 is the importance of access to clean drinking water.

Despite what you may think, a lack of access to clean water is not just an issue in developing countries. It’s a problem in the United States, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.2 million Americans suffer from waterborne illnesses each year due to contaminated water supply. At least 600,000 Americans are forced to make emergency room visits and an estimated 6,630 individuals die from these illnesses. This creates an estimated $3.3 billion in annual health care costs.

Heavy metal, fecal bacteria, and nuclides are some of the contaminants that can harm human health.

Are you at risk? The answer might prove difficult to determine.

The passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act tasked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with overseeing and regulating America’s public water systems giving them the responsibility of efficiently and effectively maintaining safe drinking water.

The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System tracks water contamination levels. The database allows the public to search in their area, view a historical list of water quality violations, and learn of potential long-term effects of each contaminant.

But despite many organizations and millions of Americans relying on this data, it has been almost three years since many of the records have been updated.

Some of the data also seems corrupted. EPA’s data for Florida included data for St. Tammany Parish—which is in Louisiana.

Beginning in November, my organization attempted to reach the EPA to inquire about when the agency would provide updated data. The agency’s website had out-of-date information about personnel, too, and calls went unanswered. We still haven’t heard from them.

While the EPA moves at a glacial pace, some Americans have to deal with continually unreliable water.

Florencia Ramos, a farmworker and mother living in El Rancho, California, has been purchasing clean, bottled water for her family for over a decade. “If you don’t have clean water, you have to go get some,” she says. Her water, once contaminated with high levels of nitrates, is now polluted with disinfectant byproducts.

After several years of the El Rancho community failing residents, they decided to take matters into their own hands by forming the AGUA Coalition, a regional organization dedicated to securing safe, clean water for surrounding communities. AGUA currently represents 26 impacted communities.

A Gallup Poll released in March 2017 found 63 percent of Americans are a “great deal” concerned about pollution of drinking water—the highest percentage since 2001. When given a list of six environmental threats, including air pollution and global warming, respondents overwhelmingly agreed that contamination of drinking water was their No. 1 worry.

In Texas alone, data shows over 22,000 incidents of nitrates exceeding the maximum contaminant level in tap water over the last 28 years.

In early 2020, it was discovered that high levels of toxic chemicals, also known as PFAS, were making residents of Westfield, Massachusetts, sick. Some municipal wells were taken offline while another had a $500,000 filtration system installed to bring the water quality back to government-set standards.

On this World Water Day, it’s important to remember that access to clean drinking water is a human right. The EPA cannot continue to fail the American people by allowing the unknown contaminants in tap water to remain a dangerous mystery.


Many Climate Crisis Claims Are Based on Manipulated Science

We are constantly being warned by activists, politicians, and some climate scientists that we face a climate crisis; that if humanity collectively doesn’t alter its lifestyle and consumption patterns now, the world will end in 10 years, 12 years, 50 years—pick your number.

This is a lie, and I suspect most of the people making these apocalyptic prophesies know it. For them, it’s the modern-day equivalent of Plato’s noble lie—lying to people to get them to act in ways they don’t realize are in their own best interest. Not coincidentally, those telling the lie profit from it in terms of influence, money, power, or all three.

This lie is not in fact noble, nor is it based upon sound science. Rather, it is perpetrated through the regular suppression of inconvenient scientific data: data altered, suppressed, or scrubbed from journals and textbooks, which put the lie to insupportable claims made by politically connected climate scientists that an anthropogenic climate apocalypse is in the offing.

The big lie is built on a faulty premise that science can realistically trace the cause of a modest recent warming of the earth primarily to human greenhouse gas emissions, and that from this we can confidently predict what the world will look like 50, 100, and 300 years from now. Award winning climate scientist Richard Lindzen, Ph.D, described the big lie this way:

“One problem with conveying our message is the difficulty people have in recognizing the absurdity of the alarmist climate message. They can’t believe that something so absurd could gain such universal acceptance. Consider the following situation. Your physician declares that your complete physical will consist in simply taking your temperature. This would immediately suggest something wrong with your physician. He further claims that if your temperature is 98.7F rather than 98.6F you must be put on life support. Now you know he is certifiably insane. The same situation for climate is considered ‘settled science.’”

Among the most egregious attempts to suppress inconvenient climate science came in 2001 when the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tried to replace settled climate history with the “hockey stick” graph. The hockey stick dispensed with the long recognized medieval warm period from approximately 950 AD to 1250 AD, and the little ice age, which ran from approximately 1350 AD through 1850 AD. Its originators postulated global temperatures had been fairly stable over the past millennium, until the twentieth century when they began to rise sharply, due to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. This fit the IPCC’s climate change narrative, so it embraced it as the truth. Ultimately, even the IPCC couldn’t defend the hockey stick temperature reconstruction and removed it from subsequent reports.

Then came Climategate, in which a treasure trove of inconvenient email exchanges between IPCC connected climate scientists were hacked and leaked. These emails detailed the scientists hiding data that indicated the recent warming trend was not historically unusual, and censoring scientific research that undermined claims of apocalyptic warming.

The Surface Station Project exposed the dirty little secret that temperature readings from the vast majority of the ground-based temperature stations were compromised by urban growth, skewing temperature readings higher. Indeed, research found 89 percent of surface stations—nearly 9 of every 10—fail to meet the National Weather Service’s requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial source of heat.

Additional scientific misconduct comes in the form of temperature monitoring agencies “adjusting” raw temperature recordings from unbiased, isolated temperature stations and reporting them in a way that indicates past temperatures were colder than were actually measured and recent temperatures have been warmer than actually measured. This action produces an artificially steep temperature trend, making recent warming appear larger than it has been. In some instances, when these nefarious actions were exposed, the government agencies involved tried to scrub the official records of past temperatures. Fortunately, in the age of the internet, where data once posted is forever, these Orwellian attempts to rewrite climate history have largely failed.

When global warming went on a 15-year hiatus, with temperatures flat-lining despite a steady rise in carbon dioxide emissions, a team of climate researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) altered how ocean temperatures were measured. VoilĂ , like magic, the hiatus disappeared. As David Rose wrote for the Daily Mail, describing the incident “[NOAA researchers] took reliable readings from buoys but then ‘adjusted’ them upwards - using readings from seawater intakes on ships that act as weather stations … even though readings from the ships have long been known to be too hot.”

Most recently, some of the same characters that brought the world the “hockey stick” have now published a widely publicized paper that claims a long-recognized ocean circulation pattern, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which impacts climate, never existed at all but was an artifact of volcanic pulses. Commenting on this paper, climate scientist Judith Curry, Ph.D., writes:

“Wow. In one fell swoop, the pesky problems of the ‘grand hiatus’ in the mid 20th century, debates over the attribution of 20th century warming and the role of multidecadal internal variability, and the difficulty of attributing the recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity to AGW, all go away. Brilliant! Almost as ‘brilliant’ as the Hockey Stick.”

There is little doubt the earth is warming, but the list of breaches of the scientific method and ethics by researchers whose careers are intimately tied to the “truth” of climate alarmism provides more than enough reason to doubt the claim that the science is settled and the earth is doomed, absent giving government authoritarian control over all aspects of peoples’ lives.




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