Dutch High on Green Hydrogen–Tulipmania Revival?

Cyril Widdershoven writes at Oil PriceThe Dutch Government Is Gambling Billions On Green Hydrogen.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

  • Green hydrogen is making headlines around the world as many consider it a cornerstone of a successful energy transition
  • The Netherlands is ready to spend billions in its attempt to become a global green hydrogen hub, but some observers are becoming increasingly skeptical
  • The economic viability of this new investment is unclear and a growing number of critics see these investments as the government gambling with billions of euros

The future of green hydrogen looks very bright, with the renewable energy source becoming something of a media darling in recent months. The global drive to invest in green or blue hydrogen is picking up steam and investment levels are staggering. Realism and economics, however, seem to be lacking when it comes to planning new green hydrogen projects in NW Europe, the USA, and Australia.

At the same time, blue hydrogen, potentially an important bridge fuel, is being largely overlooked. The Netherlands, formerly a leading natural gas producer and NW-European gas trade and transportation hub, is attempting to establish itself as a main pillar of the European hydrogen economy. According to the Dutch government, the Netherlands is ready to provide whatever is needed to support the set-up of a new green hydrogen hub and transportation network. During the presentation of the 2021-2022 government plans in September (Prinsjesdag), Dutch PM Mark Rutte committed himself to this green hydrogen future.

Without any real assessments of the risks and potential economic threats, plans are being discussed and implemented for a multibillion spending spree on green hydrogen, involving not only the refurbishment of the Dutch natural gas pipeline infrastructure but also the building of major new offshore wind parks, targeting the construction of hundreds of additional windmills. These wind parks are going to be set up and owned by international consortia, such as the NorthH2, involving Royal Dutch Shell, Gasunie (owned by the government), and others.

The optimism about these projects is now being questioned, not only by skeptics but increasingly by parties, such as Gasunie, that are part of the deals.

Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported yesterday that questions are popping up about the feasibility and commercial aspects of these large-scale plans as well as the potential risks of a new “cartel” of offshore wind producers. The multibillion-dollar investment plans, supported by the government, are even being questioned by experts of the Dutch ministry of economy, as it is not clear at all if green hydrogen production in the Netherlands, such as the NorthH2 project in Groningen (formerly known as the Dutch natural gas province), will ever be feasible or take-off.

The commercial viability of green hydrogen is a major issue as it still needs large-scale technical innovation and scaling up of electrolyzers. At the same time, there is uncertainty over demand as industry (the main client) does not appear to be interested at present. Dutch parties are also asking themselves if the current set up of the planned offshore wind parks are not a precursor to a new wind-energy cartel in the making. Some Dutch political parties and even insiders from Gasunie are worried about a monopoly position of the likes of Shell in the future.

The increased criticism by some, such as Gasunie and political parties, with regards to the power position of commercial parties, is also very strange. Some could argue that the current hydrogen strategy of Shell and others is what society and Dutch judges have forced them to do. Shell could and should argue a very simple position “we are doing what the Dutch legal system is forcing us to do”. For parties such as Shell, at least in the Netherlands or the EU, taking up green hydrogen strategies is a new License to Operate. International energy giants such as Shell do not want to be minor players in this market. For an international player, a pivotal position in any market is a must.

In the coming weeks, especially after COP26, as criticism is now being muted by most, a potential storm could be brewing.

If assessments are pointing out that the risks being taken by the Dutch government are too high in light of the benefits, and potential higher bills for customers, potential opposition to green hydrogen plans could be growing. At the same time, the Dutch hydrogen plans are seen by most as pivotal, even in light of the EU Commission’s Green Deal plans. A full-scale backlash to hydrogen could be a reality if Dutch political parties are going to constrain implementation, while other European countries will be more skeptical about their own plans. Billions, or potentially trillions, of euros will be at risk if this new hydrogen infrastructure turns out not to be economically viable. Without the power and technology of existing energy players, especially Shell, Total, BP, or ENI, behind the set-up, the future of this new power source will remain uncertain.

Comment on Hydrogen Fundamentals

What’s Not to Love About Green Hydrogen Energy? Let us count the ways.

The only cost-efficient way to produce H2 presently is electrolysis of H2O, powered by natural gas. This is called grey hydrogen. Objections: Burning the CH4 to generate the electricity gives off CO2, albeit less emissions than coal would. But because of energy losses in the process, the resulting H2 put into fuel cells delivers less energy than the CH4 that was burned. Better to run the cars using CH4 as fuel directly.

To lower the carbon footprint, some propose blue hydrogen, defined as H2 produced with fossil fuels, but including carbon capture to use or bury the CO2 emitted. Objections: Carbon Capture has not yet been scaled to be commercially viable, and in any case increases the cost of the resulting H2. And it is still less energy output than was input.

The latest dream is green hydrogen, which is H2 produced by electrolysis powered by wind or solar farms. Some proposed that this is a clean way to store intermittent renewable energy for use on demand. Objections: Wind and solar power is not clean or cheap, but involves high tech machinery requiring the extraction, transportation and refining of rare metals. Extensive tracts of land must be allocated to these installations, or else locating them offshore. Transmission lines must be built and maintained, and the panels or windmills depreciate rapidly. As well, the highly flammable H2 must be transported and stored prior to making fuel cells.

And the elephant in the room: Water is a precious resource.

One industry source told Oilprice that the production of one ton of hydrogen through electrolysis required an average of nine tons of water. But to get these nine tons of water, it would not be enough to just divert a nearby river. The water that the electrolyzer breaks down into constituent elements needs to be purified

The process of water purification, for its part, is rather wasteful. According to the same source, water treatment systems typically require some two tons of impure water to produce one ton of purified water. In other words, one ton of hydrogen actually needs not nine but 18 tons of water.

Accounting for losses, the ratio is closer to 20 tons of water for every 1 ton of hydrogen.

Speaking of water purification, organic chemists explain that the simplest way to do this is by distilling it. This method is cheap because it only needs electricity, but it is not fast. Regarding the electricity cost, distilling a liter of water requires 2.58 megajoules of energy, which translates into 0.717 kWh, on average.

So, providing the right kind of water for hydrolysis costs money, and while $2,400 per ton of hydrogen may not sound like much, the cost of purifying water is not the only water-related expense in the technology that seeks to make hydrogen from renewable sources. Besides being pure, the water to be fed into an electrolyzer has to be transported to it.

Transporting tons upon tons of water to the site of an electrolyzer means more expenses for the logistics.  To cut these, it would make sense to pick a site where water is abundant, such as by a river or the sea, or, alternatively, close to a water treatment facility. This puts a limit on the choice of locations suitable for large-scale electrolyzers. But since an electrolyzer, to be green, needs to be powered by renewable energy, it would also need to be in proximity to a solar or a wind farm. These, as we know, cannot be built just anywhere; solar farms are most cost-effective in places with a lot of sunshine, and wind farms perform best in places where there is sufficient wind.

Not all costs associated with the production of hydrogen from renewable energy sources are the costs of those renewable energy sources. Water is the commodity that the process needs, and it is a little odd that nobody seems willing to discuss the costs of water, including the European Commission’s Green Deal Team.

Summary: We now know it was a big mistake to divert corn from food production into biofuel. Will we make an even worse mistake converting drinking water into hydrogen fuel?

World of Hurt from Climate Policies-Part 3

CO2 and COPs

This is a third post toward infographics exposing the damaging effects of Climate Policies upon the lives of ordinary people.  (See World of Hurt Part 1 and Part 2)  And all of the pain is for naught in fighting against global warming/climate change, as shown clearly in the image above.  This post presents graphics to illustrate the third of four themes:

  • Zero Carbon Means Killing Real Jobs with Promises of Green Jobs
  • Reducing Carbon Emissions Means High Cost Energy Imports and Social Degradation
  • 100% Renewable Energy Means Sourcing Rare Metals Off-Planet
  • Leave it in the Ground Means Perpetual Poverty
Part 3:  Wind and Solar Infrastructure Consumes Rare Metals Far Beyond World Supplies

WHCP3 Rare Metals Demand by techMetal demand per technology

There are various technologies available for the production of electricity through wind and solar. Each technology requires different amounts of critical metals. This figure shows the metal demand for the five most common technologies.

• Newer technologies are often more efficient and cheaper, however, they rely on the properties of critical metals to achieve this.
• Thin film cadmium-tellurium solar PV cells have the best performance in terms of CO2 -emissions and energy payback times. They do however require large quantities of tellurium and cadmium, and tellurium is one of the rarest metalloids.
Direct-drive wind turbines use neodymium-dysprosium based permanent magnets. They are more expensive to produce, but cheaper in their exploitation phase. Gearbox turbines require less critical metals, but are generally understood to have higher maintenance costs because they have more moving parts. Gearbox turbines also have a shorter energy payback time.

Method The average metal demand per unit of electricity is calculated based on load hours in the Netherlands.7–9 The entire lifespan of the specific technologies has been taken into account.WHCP3 Rare Metals Dutch DemandMetal demand for Dutch renewable electricity production

This chart shows the average annual metal demand (for 22 metals) required for the installation of new solar panels and wind turbines. This assumes a linear installation of capacity.

The annual metal demand is compared to the annual global production of these specific metals, resulting in an indicator for the share of Dutch demands for renewables in global production.

• For five of the metals, the required demand for renewable electricity production capacity is significant: neodymium, terbium, indium, dysprosium, and praseodymium.
• If the rest of the world would develop renewable electricity capacity at a comparable pace with the Netherlands, a considerable shortage will arise.
• When other applications (such as electric vehicles) are also taken into consideration, the required amount of certain metals would further increase.

Method The renewable electricity targets for 2030 serve as the starting point for the calculations. Based on these targets, the annual installed capacity is calculated. The metals required for this capacity are shown as a percentage of the annual global production.
WHCP3 Rare Metals FlowsOrigin of critical metals

This diagram shows the origin of the metals required for meeting the 2030 goals. The left side of the diagram shows the origin, based on today’s global production of metals. The right side shows the cumulative metal demand for wind and solar technologies until 2030.

• The Netherlands is entirely dependent on countries outside of Europe – and mainly on China – for its critical metals.
• Not only is the main share of current production located in China, the country also hosts refinery facilities for many metals.
• Australia and Turkey are also important countries for the extraction of specific metals, particularly neodymium (Australia) and boron (Turkey).

Method The renewable electricity capacity required is calculated from the goals in the Climate Agreement outlines. This capacity is then translated to a metal demand. The ratio of world production is based on the annual production statistics of 2017.
WHCP3 Rare Metals Supply DemandGlobal critical metal demand for wind and PV 

When considering a global perspective, the critical metal demand for our future renewable electricity production is significant. This graph shows the annual metal demand for the six most critical metals, compared to the annual production. The dotted line represents present-day annual production.  

Future annual critical metal demands of the energy transition surpass the total annual critical metal production.
• An exponential growth in renewable energy production capacity is not possible with present-day technologies and annual metal production. As an illustration: in 2050, the annual need for Indium (only for solar panel application) will exceed the present-day annual global production twelvefold.
• To be able to realize a renewable energy system, there is a need to both dematerialize renewable electricity production technologies and increase global annual production.

Source: Metal Demand for Renewable Electricity Generation in the Netherlands.

[Note:  The US consumes 30 times more energy than the Netherlands.]

And there is another precious resource required for wind and solar power plants:  Land in proximity to human settlements

Wind Farms Area for LondonThe gray area would be required for a wind farm large enough to power London UK.  The yellow area would be required for solar panels.

Albany and Indian Point2

Just to replace the now closed Indian Point nuclear plant will require a wind farm the size of Albany County New York.





World of Hurt from Climate Policies-Part 2

CO2 and COPs

This is a second post toward infographics exposing the damaging effects of Climate Policies upon the lives of ordinary people.  (See World of Hurt Part 1)  And all of the pain is for naught in fighting against global warming/climate change, as shown clearly in the image above.  This post presents graphics to illustrate the second of four themes:

  • Zero Carbon Means Killing Real Jobs with Promises of Green Jobs
  • Reducing Carbon Emissions Means High Cost Energy Imports and Social Degradation
  • 100% Renewable Energy Means Sourcing Rare Metals Off-Planet
  • Leave it in the Ground Means Perpetual Poverty

Part 2:  California Exemplifies Ruination from Self-imposed Climate Policiesca-oil-supplies-source-700x507-1For the past 25 years the amount of oil supplied to California’s refineries has essentially held steady at around 660 million barrels per year, but the source of the supply has changed drastically. In 1995, nearly all of that oil came from within California’s borders and Alaska. Today, the majority of the oil comes from foreign imports as data from the state’s Energy Commission shows.WHCP2 Cal oil productionWHCP2 Cal oil leasesBy blocking domestic production through permit denials, California is playing a shell game with emissions. Overall use of petroleum products has held steady but shifted from energy produced within the state – where the industry is subject to U.S. environmental regulations and supports local workers and companies – to overseas.

California isn’t reducing its dependence on oil; it’s just adding a higher carbon footprint to get it.ca-oil-foreign-source-768x500-1Californians pay one of the highest electricity rates in the United States. In 2015, the average resident spent 2.7 percent of their salary on electricity and paid approximately $1,700 annually to keep their lights on. This percentage has been increasing since 2008 Prices have climbed 30 percent over the last decade as successive governors have mandated that an increasing share of electricity is sourced from renewables.cg5b8ded55e8c77aga-energy-transferDespite natural gas rates being at their lowest levels since 1999, several municipalities across California have proposed or implemented bans on the use of the resource in homes and businesses. 

As individuals leave the gas grid, the poor will face higher prices on the grid and higher electricity prices when they switch. They will be threatened with a higher cost of living that could force them from their homes. Lower income individuals are priced out of neighborhoods where they could build equity because of higher electric costs. Middle class and wealthy individuals pay four times more for electricity, diminishing disposable income, while still paying for a gas grid they are unable to connect to through municipal law.

The result of California’s efforts? A reduction of global emissions by less than half of one percent.5db36b3ee25b2.image_Sources:  EnergyInDepth:  California

See also:  California on the Road to Ruin









World of Hurt from Climate Policies-Part 1

CO2 and COPs

This is a beginning post toward infographics exposing the damaging effects of Climate Policies upon the lives of ordinary people.  And all of the pain is for naught in fighting against global warming/climate change, as shown clearly in the image above.  This post presents graphics to illustrate the first of four themes:

  • Zero Carbon Means Killing Real Jobs with Promises of Green Jobs
  • Reducing Carbon Emissions Means High Cost Energy Imports and Social Degradation
  • 100% Renewable Energy Means Sourcing Rare Metals Off-Planet
  • Leave it in the Ground Means Perpetual Poverty
Part 1:  Zero Carbon will Decimate US Workforce

WHCP fig1r

WHCP fig1ar

WHCP fig2ar

WHCP fig3a

WHCP fig3

Tables of Oil and Natural Gas Employment and Economic Impact come from API Price Waterhouse Cooper  Impacts of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry on the US Economy in 2019    As for Coal, EIA estimates the industry lost 75% of its workforce down to 53,000 employees (2019) working in coal mines, and the number has stabilized with exports offsetting declines in domestic consumption.  The losses of jobs in oil and gas come from EID (Energy in Depth) CLIMATE ACTIVISTS PUSH STUDY SHOWING 3.8 MILLION LOST JOBS FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY TRANSITION.

“While many experts dispute the feasibility of Jacobson’s plan for a renewables-only energy grid, the severe job losses are far more difficult to dispute, given that they come directly from Jacobson’s research. Those job losses would undoubtedly be devastating for millions of American families.”


And about Those Promised Green Jobs to replace the lost ones:  

In February 2009, the last time Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden flew to Colorado to sign their $787 billion stimulus package into law.

The plan was to invest $150 billion over 10 years that would advance a “clean energy” economy built around biofuels, hybrid cars, low-emission coal plants, and renewable sources such as solar and wind. Obama and Biden promised to create five million green jobs that would specifically benefit low-income earners, claiming that the stimulus package included “help for those hit hardest by our economic crisis.”


A decade later, we now know that the 2009 green jobs program was a complete failure. The Department of Labor (DoL) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued several reports on the green jobs program. Each report was an indictment on the program, as job placement met only 10 percent of the targeted level, and many of those who were hired remained employed for less than six months.

Even the new, redefined green jobs did not reach the five million promised in February 2009. According to a study by the Brookings Institution, the Obama–Biden administration identified nearly 2.7 million green jobs, but most were bus drivers, sewage workers, and other types of work that do not match the “green jobs of the future” that the administration promised. Most of them were preexisting jobs, which were simply re-characterized by the government, apparently in an effort to boost the numbers.  Source: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try ‘Green Jobs’ Again

See also Green Energy Failures Redux



Green Energy Failures Redux

I was going to end the title of this post with “Deja Vu”, but then changed it to “Redux”, because in this case the return of the past is not an illusion, but an actual imitation of failed policies.  David Blackmon writes in Forbes Biden Seems Determined To Replay Obama Era Green Energy Failures.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.


Over the last few weeks, President Joe Biden and members of his administration have mounted a focused effort to sell massive new green energy spending to the American people.

Former Obama-era EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, now the Biden White House climate adviser, is pushing Congress to include a federal clean electricity standard (CES) to drive investment in renewable energy and billions in subsidies to incentivize changeover further. Secretary of Energy Jenifer Granholm is doing the same.


The fact McCarthy, and an official like Granholm who has a track record of failed green energy subsidies — are leading this effort makes this massive push all the more frustrating. These officials, well-meaning though they may be, should know by now that government energy subsidies overwhelmingly end up financing the well-connected rather than the most innovative, a concern I wrote about in a recent piece. The end result is wasted funds and harm to the sector that the government wants to help.

The trial that Elon Musk’s SolarCity has found itself in this week serves as a timely reminder of just how poorly the Obama-Biden green energy agenda went last time around. Beyond the regulatory and quality assurance issues his space company SpaceX and car company Tesla currently face, including recently violating an FAA launch license, Musk is now actively tangled in a legal battle from the solar panel manufacturer’s merger with Tesla. The billionaire stands accused of defrauding investors by not disclosing that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and that it was highly risky for Tesla — itself a struggling company at the time — to take on SolarCity’s debt.


SolarCity’s struggles were containable partly because it was awarded federal subsidies and nearly $500 million in Treasury grants. The Obama-Biden administration ended up wasting billions of taxpayer dollars with companies like SolarCity and Solyndra going broke or facing significant trouble soon after receiving the helping hand.

To give you an idea of the program’s effectiveness, the fact that SolarCity still technically exists despite its near-bankruptcy and $29 million settlement with the Department of Justice over the fraud case makes it one of the success stories.

Even when investments turn into actual infrastructure, consumers will be unlikely to reap the benefits. Many have championed the “progress” green energy has made over the last decade in providing a more competitive product, but the facilities are still failing, and the progress has been de minimis in terms of capturing global energy market share.


Just last year, the Department of Energy watched as Tonopah Solar Energy LLC in Nevada declared bankruptcy after receiving a $737 million loan from one of their green energy programs. If you can’t make solar panels work in present-day Nevada, how do you expect them to fuel the energy needs of places like Colorado, where Sec. Granholm and Senator John Hickenlooper recently toured a solar garden?


Utility companies that stand to receive billions in subsidies to upgrade their infrastructure support the measure because it will raise rates on consumers while reducing operating costs. Green energy is less efficient and less reliable, so the cost of operations will undoubtedly go up. But with the government covering the costs of setup and repair, it means more revenue with fewer expenses. This will help stockholders far more than working people.

But the calls from the climate change lobby for action are growing louder. Despite not making it into last month’s bipartisan infrastructure deal, many Democrats hope billions of dollars in green subsidies will find their way into a second infrastructure bill that party officials plan to pass through reconciliation. In fact, some Democrats are threatening to withhold their votes for the bipartisan bill unless they receive guarantees of energy provisions.


Tehachapi’s dead turbines

Democrats have to pass these measures by party-line vote not because Republicans hate the environment (the GOP has a climate change caucus) but due to the fact that their plan is so costly and ill-advised that even moderate Republicans like Susan Collins and Mitt Romney can’t devise a rationale to reasonably offer support. The hard truth is that renewable energy technology isn’t currently capable of handling America’s growing energy demands and remains unlikely to do so in the future.

While the idea of renewable energy remains appealing, the reality is that fossil fuels, natural gas, and nuclear power will all be necessary to power our nation for decades to come.

Everyone should support innovation in the energy sector, but the subsidy-heavy plan that Democrats continue to push will only lead to wasted dollars and public backlash against a policy of failed projects. Congress has been down this road before. When the Green New Deal first came up, the bill was seen as so ridiculous that Speaker Pelosi wouldn’t even bring it up for a vote. Congressional Democrats should stick to that past wisdom and avoid falling back into this green subsidy trap.

As REN21, an advocacy group consisting of actors from science, governments, NGOs and industry, recently reported, this is a strategy that, from 2009 through 2019, produced virtually no real gain in overall green energy market share despite trillions of dollars in global targeted subsidies. A replaying of this same failed Obama-era strategy, managed by some of the very same officials, promises only to produce similarly failed results, albeit on an even grander scale.

Footnote Q & A:

Q:  What is the difference between Golf and Government?

A:  In Government you can always improve your lie.

–Anonymous Source


Shellenberger to NYT: Isn’t a correction merited?

This exchange became interesting to me since Google somehow blocked my access to the twitchy.com page where the tweet thread was published.  This, even though I was using DuckDuckGo in Dissenter browser, supposedly independent of Google.  TorBrowser saved the day, and here are Shellenberger’s tweets offered to NYT for them to salvage an embarrassing badly warped article.

April 30, 2021 New York Nukes Itself

EIA explains the news today New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant closes after 59 years of operation.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Indian Point Energy Center (Indian Point) permanently stopped generating electricity on April 30, 2021, when it retired its last operating nuclear reactor, Unit 3, earlier than originally planned. The Indian Point nuclear power plant began operations in 1962 and produced over 565 terawatthours (TWh) of electricity in the 59 years it was open. The Unit 3 retirement removes almost 1,040 megawatts (MW) of nuclear generating capacity from New York State, leaving about 3,200 MW of remaining nuclear capacity at three plants in upstate New York.

Background from previous post

“New York Nukes Itself” refers not to the disastrous decisions in managing WuHanFlu, but about New York’s insane decision to close nuclear power plants in favor of wind farms.  Robert Bryce writes at Forbes New York Has 1,300 Reasons Not To Close Indian Point. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

At the end of this month, the Unit 2 reactor at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York will be permanently shut down. Next April, the final reactor at the site, Unit 3, will also be shuttered.

TOMKINS COVE , NY – MAY 11: The Indian Point nuclear power plant is seen from Tomkins Cove, New York … [+] CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES

But the premature closure of the 2,069-megawatt nuclear plant is even worse land-use policy. Here’s why: replacing the 16 terawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity that is now being produced by the twin-reactor plant with wind turbines will require 1,300 times as much territory as what is now covered by Indian Point.

Here are the facts: Indian Point covers 239 acres, or about 1 square kilometer. To put Indian Point’s footprint into context, think of it this way: you could fit three Indian Points inside Central Park in Manhattan.

Based on projected output from offshore wind projects (which have higher capacity factors than onshore wind projects), producing that same amount of electricity as is now generated by Indian Point – about 16 terawatt-hours per year – would require installing about 4,000 megawatts of wind turbines. That estimate is based on the proposed South Fork offshore wind project, a 90-megawatt facility that is expected to produce 370 gigawatt-hours per year. (Note that these output figures are substantially higher than what can be expected from onshore wind capacity.) Using the numbers from South Fork, a bit of simple division shows that each megawatt of wind capacity will produce about 4.1 gigawatt-hours per year. Thus, matching the energy output of Indian Point will require about 4,000 megawatts of wind capacity.

That’s a lot of wind turbines. According to the American Wind Energy Association, existing wind-energy capacity in New York state now totals about 1,987 megawatts. That capacity will require enormous amounts of land. Numerous studies, including ones by the Department of Energy have found that the footprint, or capacity density, of wind energy projects is about 3 watts per square meter. Thus, 4,000 megawatts (four billion watts) divided by 3 watts per square meter = 1.33 billion square meters or 1,333 square kilometers. (Or roughly 515 square miles.)

UNITED STATES – AUGUST 20: Aerial view of New York City’s Central Park (Photo by Carol M. … [+] GETTY IMAGES

Those numbers are almost too big to imagine. Therefore, let’s look again at Central Park. Recall that three Indian Points could fit inside the confines of the famed park. Thus, replacing the energy production from Indian Point would require paving a land area equal to 400 Central Parks with forests of wind turbines.

Put another way, the 1,300 square kilometers of wind turbines needed to replace the electricity output of Indian Point is nearly equal to the size of Albany County. Would New York legislators who convene in the capitol in Albany consent to having the entire county covered in wind turbines? I can’t be sure, but I am guessing that they might oppose such plan. (See yellow area in Google Earth image  at top).

These basic calculations prove some undeniable facts. Among them: Indian Point represents the apogee of densification. The massive amount of energy being produced by the two reactors on such a small footprint provides a perfect illustration of what may be nuclear energy’s single greatest virtue: its unsurpassed power density. (Power density is a measure of energy flow from a given area, volume, or mass.) High power density sources, like nuclear, allow us to spare land for nature. Density is green.

Alas, the environmental groups that are influencing policymakers in New York and in other states are strident in their belief that nuclear energy is bad and that renewables are good. But that theology ignores the greenness of density and the essential role that nuclear energy must play if we are to have any hope of making significant reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions.

In short, the premature closure of Indian Point – and the raging land-use battles over renewable energy siting in New York – should lead environmental groups to rethink their definition of what qualifies as “green.” Just because wind and solar are renewable doesn’t mean they are green. In fact, the land-use problems with renewables show the exact opposite.

And there is much more wrong about this.  For a complete discussion  see Forbes article The Indian Point Closure Means More Emissions — And More Cynicism About Climate Action

The Green Mirage

Mirage (2)

John Constable writes at Civitas The Green Mirage: Why a Low-Carbon Economy May be Further Off Than We Think.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.  h/t Real Clear Public Affairs

Spain renewables


  • The prospects for a sustainable, low-carbon economy as the result of current UK national and EU-wide policies are poor.
  • Empirical experience in Spain and Germany shows that the costs of supporting renewable energy generation are too high.
  • Rising employment in the renewable energy sector compared to the wider UK economy stems from unsustainably high subsidies.
  • Renewables are naturally less productive, so as they are relentlessly pursued, a painful rebalancing of the economy will occur, with fewer jobs and less economic growth.


Bottom Line: The current prospects for a sustainable low-carbon economy are poor in both the UK and across the European Union (EU). Germany and Spain have already clearly shown what happens when state coercion forces such a dramatic shift to less reliable and more costly renewable energy systems: unsustainably high subsidies, fewer jobs, and reduced economic growth.

Whatever the longer-term potential for a viable and prosperous global economy with a low-emissions profile, the present study demonstrates that the prospects for a self-sustaining low-carbon economy as the result of current UK national and EU-wide policies are poor.

The problem is that these policies for such a shift to renewable energy systems demand high levels of state coercion. This has the risk of stagnating economic growth and leading to lower levels of invention and innovation, thus appearing to be a weak preparation for reduced usage of fossil fuels.

In addition, empirical experience in Spain and Germany shows that the costs of supporting renewable energy generation is overly high, compared to low-carbon alternatives, and almost certainly has, over time, net economic effects that are negative both in terms of gross domestic product and employment.

An age of subsistence energy generation appears to be dawning. Overly high subsidies to force renewable energy into the system erode jobs in other sectors of the economy.

Finally, analysis for the EU suggests that the net effects of such policies would only be marginally positive if the EU retains a high share of the world export market in renewable energy technologies – something that appears rather unlikely.

Read the full study here.

Footnote:  Excerpt from the full study:

In an interview with an environmental journalist for Ecoseed in early 2011, a spokesman for the industry body ASIF (Asociación de la Industria Fotovoltaica) remarked ‘The government cheated the solar investors by changing the law after it has lured them to invest their money in PV power plants… If you know that the government would change the law, you will never have invested in that technology and never have put your money in that market’.22 This implicitly concedes that the sector was from the outset likely to be a long-term client of the state, unable to survive without support, and should serve as a warning to other governments hoping to create independent renewables industries through subsidy.



Just One Number Keeps the Lights On


David Wojick explains how maintaining electricity supply is simple in his CFACT article It takes big energy to back up wind and solar.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds. (H/T John Ray)

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?

Background information on grid stability is at Beware Deep Electrification Policies

More Technical discussion is On Stable Electric Power: What You Need to Know


Texas Confirms It: 10% Renewable Power Puts Grid at Risk

A recent post here on the Great Texas Blackout of 2021 reinforces the rule of thumb found in other electrical grids exposed to intermittent feeds from wind and solar. That post Data Show Wind Power Messed Up Texas described how the loss of wind power due to frozen turbines caused over 4 million homes in Texas to lose power and who are still short of drinking water.  The Texas sources of electrical power were shown as:

Note that despite wind nameplate capacity of 25 GW, ERCOT is only counting on 33% of wind power to be available.  At 8 GW wind is expected to supply about 10% of the operational capacity.  At 6 pm. Feb. 14, 2021, wind was at 9 GW before collapsing down to 5GW and then to less than 1GW in a few hours.

This matches the pattern of grids going unstable when exceeding about 10% of power generated by wind and/or solar.  Reprinted below is a post explaining the issues.

Background: Climateers Tilting at Windmills 


Don Quixote ( “don key-ho-tee” ) in Cervantes’ famous novel charged at some windmills claiming they were enemies, and is celebrated in the English language by two idioms:

Tilting at Windmills–meaning attacking imaginary enemies, and

Quixotic (“quick-sottic”)–meaning striving for visionary ideals.

It is clear that climateers are similary engaged in some kind of heroic quest, like modern-day Don Quixotes. The only differences: They imagine a trace gas in the air is the enemy, and that windmills are our saviors.

A previous post (at the end) addresses the unreality of the campaign to abandon fossil fuels in the face of the world’s demand for that energy.  Now we have a startling assessment of the imaginary benefits of using windmills to power electrical grids.  This conclusion comes from Gail Tverberg, a seasoned analyst of economic effects from resource limits, especially energy.  Her blog is called Our Finite World, indicating her viewpoint.  So her dismissal of wind power is a serious indictment.  A synopsis follows. (Title is link to article)

Intermittent Renewables Can’t Favorably Transform Grid Electricity

In fact, I have come to the rather astounding conclusion that even if wind turbines and solar PV could be built at zero cost, it would not make sense to continue to add them to the electric grid in the absence of very much better and cheaper electricity storage than we have today. There are too many costs outside building the devices themselves. It is these secondary costs that are problematic. Also, the presence of intermittent electricity disrupts competitive prices, leading to electricity prices that are far too low for other electricity providers, including those providing electricity using nuclear or natural gas. The tiny contribution of wind and solar to grid electricity cannot make up for the loss of more traditional electricity sources due to low prices.

Let’s look at some of the issues that we are encountering, as we attempt to add intermittent renewable energy to the electric grid.

Issue 1. Grid issues become a problem at low levels of intermittent electricity penetration.

Hawaii consists of a chain of islands, so it cannot import electricity from elsewhere. This is what I mean by “Generation = Consumption.” There is, of course, some transmission line loss with all electrical generation, so generation and consumption are, in fact, slightly different.

The situation is not too different in California. The main difference is that California can import non-intermittent (also called “dispatchable”) electricity from elsewhere. It is really the ratio of intermittent electricity to total electricity that is important, when it comes to balancing. California is running into grid issues at a similar level of intermittent electricity penetration (wind + solar PV) as Hawaii–about 12.3% of electricity consumed in 2015, compared to 12.2% for Hawaii.

Issue 2. The apparent “lid” on intermittent electricity at 10% to 15% of total electricity consumption is caused by limits on operating reserves.

In theory, changes can be made to the system to allow the system to be more flexible. One such change is adding more long distance transmission, so that the variable electricity can be distributed over a wider area. This way the 10% to 15% operational reserve “cap” applies more broadly. Another approach is adding energy storage, so that excess electricity can be stored until needed later. A third approach is using a “smart grid” to make changes, such as turning off all air conditioners and hot water heaters when electricity supply is inadequate. All of these changes tend to be slow to implement and high in cost, relative to the amount of intermittent electricity that can be added because of their implementation.

Issue 3. When there is no other workaround for excess intermittent electricity, it must be curtailed–that is, dumped rather than added to the grid.

Based on the modeling of the company that oversees the California electric grid, electricity curtailment in California is expected to be significant by 2024, if the 40% California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is followed, and changes are not made to fix the problem.

Issue 4. When all costs are included, including grid costs and indirect costs, such as the need for additional storage, the cost of intermittent renewables tends to be very high.

In Europe, there is at least a reasonable attempt to charge electricity costs back to consumers. In the United States, renewable energy costs are mostly hidden, rather than charged back to consumers. This is easy to do, because their usage is still low.

Euan Mearns finds that in Europe, the greater the proportion of wind and solar electricity included in total generation, the higher electricity prices are for consumers.

Issue 5. The amount that electrical utilities are willing to pay for intermittent electricity is very low.

To sum up, when intermittent electricity is added to the electric grid, the primary savings are fuel savings. At the same time, significant costs of many different types are added, acting to offset these savings. In fact, it is not even clear that when a comparison is made, the benefits of adding intermittent electricity are greater than the costs involved.

Issue 6. When intermittent electricity is sold in competitive electricity markets (as it is in California, Texas, and Europe), it frequently leads to negative wholesale electricity prices. It also shaves the peaks off high prices at times of high demand.

When solar energy is included in the mix of intermittent fuels, it also tends to reduce peak afternoon prices. Of course, these minute-by-minute prices don’t really flow back to the ultimate consumers, so it doesn’t affect their demand. Instead, these low prices simply lead to lower funds available to other electricity producers, most of whom cannot quickly modify electricity generation.

A price of $36 per MWh is way down at the bottom of the chart, between 0 and 50. Pretty much no energy source can be profitable at such a level. Too much investment is required, relative to the amount of energy produced. We reach a situation where nearly every kind of electricity provider needs subsidies. If they cannot receive subsidies, many of them will close, leaving the market with only a small amount of unreliable intermittent electricity, and little back-up capability.

This same problem with falling wholesale prices, and a need for subsidies for other energy producers, has been noted in California and Texas. The Wall Street Journal ran an article earlier this week about low electricity prices in Texas, without realizing that this was a problem caused by wind energy, not a desirable result!

Issue 7. Other parts of the world are also having problems with intermittent electricity.

Needless to say, such high intermittent electricity generation leads to frequent spikes in generation. Germany chose to solve this problem by dumping its excess electricity supply on the European Union electric grid. Poland, Czech Republic, and Netherlands complained to the European Union. As a result, the European Union mandated that from 2017 onward, all European Union countries (not just Germany) can no longer use feed-in tariffs. Doing so provides too much of an advantage to intermittent electricity providers. Instead, EU members must use market-responsive auctioning, known as “feed-in premiums.” Germany legislated changes that went even beyond the minimum changes required by the European Union. Dörte Fouquet, Director of the European Renewable Energy Federation, says that the German adjustments will “decimate the industry.”

Issue 8. The amount of subsidies provided to intermittent electricity is very high.

The US Energy Information Administration prepared an estimate of certain types of subsidies (those provided by the federal government and targeted particularly at energy) for the year 2013. These amounted to a total of $11.3 billion for wind and solar combined. About 183.3 terawatts of wind and solar energy was sold during 2013, at a wholesale price of about 2.8 cents per kWh, leading to a total selling price of $5.1 billion dollars. If we add the wholesale price of $5.1 billion to the subsidy of $11.3 billion, we get a total of $16.4 billion paid to developers or used in special grid expansion programs. This subsidy amounts to 69% of the estimated total cost. Any subsidy from states, or from other government programs, would be in addition to the amount from this calculation.

In a sense, these calculations do not show the full amount of subsidy. If renewables are to replace fossil fuels, they must pay taxes to governments, just as fossil fuel providers do now. Energy providers are supposed to provide “net energy” to the system. The way that they share this net energy with governments is by paying taxes of various kinds–income taxes, property taxes, and special taxes associated with extraction. If intermittent renewables are to replace fossil fuels, they need to provide tax revenue as well. Current subsidy calculations don’t consider the high taxes paid by fossil fuel providers, and the need to replace these taxes, if governments are to have adequate revenue.

Also, the amount and percentage of required subsidy for intermittent renewables can be expected to rise over time, as more areas exceed the limits of their operating reserves, and need to build long distance transmission to spread intermittent electricity over a larger area. This seems to be happening in Europe now.

There is also the problem of the low profit levels for all of the other electricity providers, when intermittent renewables are allowed to sell their electricity whenever it becomes available. One potential solution is huge subsidies for other providers. Another is buying a lot of energy storage, so that energy from peaks can be saved and used when supply is low. A third solution is requiring that renewable energy providers curtail their production when it is not needed. Any of these solutions is likely to require subsidies.


Few people have stopped to realize that intermittent electricity isn’t worth very much. It may even have negative value, when the cost of all of the adjustments needed to make it useful are considered.

Energy products are very different in “quality.” Intermittent electricity is of exceptionally low quality. The costs that intermittent electricity impose on the system need to be paid by someone else. This is a huge problem, especially as penetration levels start exceeding the 10% to 15% level that can be handled by operating reserves, and much more costly adjustments must be made to accommodate this energy. Even if wind turbines and solar panels could be produced for $0, it seems likely that the costs of working around the problems caused by intermittent electricity would be greater than the compensation that can be obtained to fix those problems.

The economy does not perform well when the cost of energy products is very high. The situation with new electricity generation is similar. We need electricity products to be well-behaved (not act like drunk drivers) and low in cost, if they are to be successful in growing the economy. If we continue to add large amounts of intermittent electricity to the electric grid without paying attention to these problems, we run the risk of bringing the whole system down.

Why the Quest to Reduce Fossil Fuel Emissions is Quixotic

Roger Andrews at Energy Matters puts into context the whole mission to reduce carbon emissions. You only have to look at the G20 countries, who have 64% of the global population and use 80% of the world’s energy. The introduction to his essay, Electricity and energy in the G20:

While governments fixate on cutting emissions from the electricity sector, the larger problem of cutting emissions from the non-electricity sector is generally ignored. In this post I present data from the G20 countries, which between them consume 80% of the world’s energy, summarizing the present situation. The results show that the G20 countries obtain only 41.5% of their total energy from electricity and the remaining 58.5% dominantly from oil, coal and gas consumed in the non-electric sector (transportation, industrial processes, heating etc). So even if they eventually succeed in obtaining all their electricity from low-carbon sources they would still be getting more than half their energy from high-carbon sources if no progress is made in decarbonizing their non-electric sectors.

The whole article is enlightening, and shows how much our civilization depends on fossil fuels, even when other sources are employed. The final graph is powerful (thermal refers to burning of fossil fuels):

Figure 12: Figure 9 with Y-scale expanded to 100% and thermal generation included, illustrating the magnitude of the problem the G20 countries still face in decarbonizing their energy sectors.

The requirement is ultimately to replace the red-shaded bars with shades of dark blue, light blue or green – presumably dominantly light blue because nuclear is presently the only practicable solution.


There is another way. Adaptation means accepting the time-honored wisdom that weather and climates change in ways beyond our control. The future will have periods both cooler and warmer than the present and we must prepare for both contingencies. Colder conditions are the greater threat to human health and prosperity.  The key priorities are robust infrastructures and reliable, affordable energy.


This video shows Don Quixote might have more success against modern windmills.