Large Area Wind Success?
All puff (wind) power installation proposals use terms like “equal to powering X homes” or “reducing carbon dioxide emissions by Y tons”. These proposals also state that average production is 30+% of rated. Then there are others who note that the performance is showing differently and puff power is unreliable. To counter that, we see the argument that wind is always blowing somewhere and therefore we need larger area and MORE breeze fans, ie., not enough installed.
The US west coast states have aggressively encouraged installation of puff power systems to the point where installed capacity in the Bonneville Power Administration region (OR, WA) is nominally about 30% of load demand. This is far above industry maximum recommendations of 15% to preserve grid stability. If not for huge hydro, BPA would have an impossible task. As it is, even the more traditional power grids have difficulty with any puff power.
Here’s why. The wind is not necessarily ‘blowing somewhere’ and the average is misleading. We have two West Coast online real time records for puff power for comparison. The California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAISO) provides hourly data for puff farms over the region from San Francisco to San Diego. The BPA provides similar data on 5 minute intervals. Both show comparisons to load demand.
The sidebar chart shows a comparison of the two regions for the same weekly period. Both systems were flatline or near so at the same time for 2 days. Digging into the datasets, one can also see flat lines for up to two weeks at a time. Note too that the variability ramps are extreme, the primary reason for avoiding attachment to conventional energy sources which perform best under more predictable regimes. And, the demand curves show generally predictable patterns of high usage morning and evening with a minima at midday, not the comparative puffer performance.
If the combined West Coast performance is not sufficient, maybe we still don’t have a big enough area to gather breeze energy. Another study takes on a quite large region, namely a number of the world’s puff power installations (BPA, Australia-New South Wales, Ireland, Canada-Alberta, and Canada-Ontario). The combination still shows “flatline” and high variability, enough to drive any grid operator crazy.
So, is puff power the answer to the energy needs of an industrialized society with ultra high dependence on reliable energy? You be the judge. But remember, the actual useful performance capacity factors are counter to “equal to powering X homes” and those factors include ZERO.
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