Month: January 2019

Can wind and solar replace fossil fuels?

By Richard D. Patton

Statements implying that wind and solar can provide 50% of the power to the grid are not difficult to find on the internet. For example, Andrew Cuomo announced that

“The Clean Energy Standard will require 50 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030…”

Considering that the wind is erratic, and the solar cells only put out full power 6 hours per day, it seems a remarkable statement. Can intermittent energy actually supply that much power?

For some answers, we turn to Germany, which has some of the highest electric bills in the world as well as a high proportion of its electric power produced by wind and solar (19%). Let’s take a look at German consumption and generation.


As you can see, the power generation (black line), especially after 2011, has been rising, but the power consumption (blue line) has been falling slightly. The red line denotes dispatchable generation, i.e. all power generated except wind and solar. This includes nuclear, fossil, biomass, hydro and geothermal power.

The table below shows what happened more clearly.

2001 2011 2016
Consumption 520.2 546.2 536.5
Dispatchable 539.1 506.4 496.3
wind+solar 10.6 68.3 116.3
losses+export 29.5 28.5 76.1

Between 2001 and 2011, wind and solar generation rose 57.7 billion kwh. The difference of dispatchable minus consumption fell by 58.7 billion kwh. In this period, solar and wind were displacing dispatchable power. Germany chose to reduce its nuclear fleet in this period, so fossil fuel use (mostly coal) remained strong and Germany’s carbon footprint was not significantly reduced.

In the period from 2011-2016, Germany’s wind and solar generation increased by another 48 billion kwh, but the difference between dispatchable generation and consumption was essentially flat at around 40 billion kwh. Losses+export increased by 47.6 billion kwh to 76.1 billion kwh in 2016. This increase is due to exports of 49 billion kwh to other countries in 2016.

While nuclear power fell 20% from 2011 to 2016, the dispatchable non-fossil fuel (nuclear, hydro, biomass and geothermal) portion of power generation remained almost constant, as can be seen on this graph.


This left the German fossil fuel and the intermittent (wind + solar) portion of power generation.


In this period, wind and solar rose from 68 to 116 billion kwh, yet this rise of 48 billion kwh had no effect on the use of fossil fuels to generate power in Germany. During the period of 2011 to 2016, consumption fell by 10 billion kwh. Fossil fuel generation fell by 5 billion kwh, and non-fossil fuel dispatchable generation (nuclear, hydro, biomass and geothermal) also fell by 5 billion kwh. The increase in wind and solar (48 billion kwh) had no effect on fossil fuel use.


Stability Problems, an example

To the problems caused by intermittent power, let us examine German power usage on January 7-9, 2016.



This graph begins at start of January 7, which is a Thursday. The load line (black) shows low power usage. The spot price (orange, right-hand scale) is 25€/Mwh. The blue line is the sum of wind and solar power, and the red line is how much power is being exported.

The day starts and the load increases as people head to work. The spot price rises to 42 €/Mwh because the load is increasing. The wind picks up and the wind+solar line rises. It keeps rising throughout the day. As people go home and the work day ends, the spot price plummets to 12 €/Mwh because there are too many producers of electricity. To cushion the system, more power is exported.

The next day, the price rises in the morning but is still low (25€/Mwh) during the day due to high wind output. Around noon (hour 37) the wind power plummets. This is in the middle of the work day on Friday, so the load is high. Wind+solar was producing almost one-half of the power, but within four hours, approximately 15,000 Mw of power are taken out of the system while the system is near peak load. The spot price rises quickly to 47€/Mwh as the wind+solar power falls. The exports of power are reduced to cushion the system.

Notice that the exports move with the wind+solar power (positive correlation) and the spot price moves opposite to wind+solar power (negative correlation). The correlation coefficient of Germany’s wind and solar energy output and the exchanges with other countries in 2016 was r=0.503. The correlation between the spot price and the wind and solar generation is -.411.

Wind+solar underwent a nearly 6-fold increase in power over 30 hours, and the system must accommodate that power. Wind+solar then fell by 50% (25% of the load) in 4 hours. Exporting some of that power out of the system helps stabilize it. The spot price movements attract or repel other power producers to balance the system and prevent blackouts.

Despite these efforts, Germany is now plagued by blackouts. According to the (German) Federal Grid Agency (the Bundesnetzagentur), there are 172,000 power outages in Germany annually. This was reported by Hessen Public TV (HR). Previously, the German grid was impeccable.

After all of this effort, including patience are the part of the public in accepting these continual blackouts, Germany’s carbon footprint has barely budged. The CO2 emissions from coal and coke have only fallen 2% between 2011 and 2016, due to decreased consumption of electricity. The extra 48 billion kwh produced from wind and solar plants built between 2011 and 2016 was balanced by exports of 49 billion kwh in 2016. In terms of reducing Germany’s carbon footprint, the entire effort is a failure.

Apparently, there is a limit to how much intermittent power a grid can use before it becomes unstable. German wind and solar use maxed out in 2011 at around 68 billion kwh, or 12.5% of consumption. Back in the 90’s, engineering textbooks on wind were saying that people used to believe that wind could only supply about 10% of the power to the grid due to stability problems, but further studies showed that it could actually supply 30%. The real-life example of Germany shows that the engineers who said wind could only supply 10% of the power had a point.

It has not been proven that the NY Clean Energy Mandate (or similar mandates elsewhere) can be met by relying on wind and solar power. Given the example of Germany, doubts are in order. As advertised by its politicians, Germany gets 19% of its energy from wind and solar. What they do not say is that it also exports 1/3 of that energy out of country, leaving its carbon footprint unchanged since 2011. Some small countries, notably Denmark, have advertised that they get 50% or more of their energy from sun and wind. What they really mean is that they have a large country (in the case of Denmark, Germany) next to them absorbing that power and selling them power when the wind stops blowing and the sun goes down. Because it is a small country selling into a big market, its energy sales do not disturb the grid stability of the bigger market. It is a much different case when the larger country (Germany) tries it. Germany’s attempt, the Energiewende (energy transition), is widely judged to have been a failure. If New York goes down that path, it is not likely to do much better.


Andrew Cuomo 50% announcement


Data for graphs were sourced from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Unfortunately, this is a beta site, but there was no other link to international data.

The EIA website has generation and consumption figures for every country for the years 1980-2016.

The link for German electricity generation (including different sources – wind, fossil fuel, etc.) is:

The link for German electricity consumption is:

The correlation coefficients were calculated from hourly European data compiled by P. F. Bach. He did those same calculations and sent them to me in a personal communication; the numbers matched. Here is the download link to his website.

He got the data from Entso-e, a platform showing power genraton, consumption and transmission in Europe. Its website is here, and registration is free:

The power outages data are from no tricks zone. Pierre Gosslin, who runs it, usually has interesting facts about Germany. Here is the link to that:

The links to German TV from that article do not work.

Also, from no tricks zone, a report form ARD TV in Germany.

The link from that article to ARD TV is available below

My German is very poor, but the show said 473/day or 172,645/year. Also, the show linked the stability problems to storms and wind power. In other words, wind power was specifically called out for Germany’s stability problems.

via Watts Up With That?

January 1, 2019 at 12:09PM

More wind and solar than SA can use — we threw away 10% of the generation

But we have so much wind power, too much, that in South Australia the AEMO had to intervene to curtail excess wind and solar generation. (This curtailment wouldn’t need to happen if people weren’t so persnickety about blackouts. Honestly, South Australia where are the Blackouts to save the world!)

This graph is from the Quarter 3 AEMO report for 2018. It is technically about both wind and solar, but it appears to be mostly wind. Solar is not a star player in Q3 because it’s winter.

Would we put up with any other industrial output that had such a dismal performance. Imagine this was your car….

AEMO Quarter 3 report page 7

Synchronous generation is the kind that comes from machines that spin at 50 Hz (like coal, gas, hydro, nukes). These keep the system stable. Happy happy.

Ten percent of all the wind and solar power had to be thrown away in SA because there wasn’t enough reliable back up power to guarantee the stability of the system.

During Q3 2018, total curtailments of non-synchronous generation (large-scale wind and solar farms) in South Australia increased to around 150 GWh (or 10% of South Australian non-synchronous generation) […]

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via JoNova

January 1, 2019 at 12:05PM

Happy Arctic New Year 2019


2019 with bearsWith the end of December, Arctic ice is rebuilding in the dark up to its annual maximum before the beginning of dawn in March.  Since many of the seas are already at their maximum extents, the coming months will only add about 2M km2 to the approximately 13M km2 of ice in place.


The map above shows the remarkable growth of Bering Sea ice in December.  The Bering ice extent grew from 57k km2 to 459k km2 yesterday, exceeding the March Bering maximum of 451k km2.  Okhotsk has also grown ice more slowly, now at 347k km2 slightly below average, .  Note Chukchi Sea north of Bering froze completely as of day 350.

The regrowth of Arctic ice extent was slower than usual until recently. After showing resilience in September, ending higher than 2007, ice growth lagged in October, then recovered in November and kept pace with average through most of December.


In December, 2018 ice extent has grown by close to 11 year average until the last 10 days.  As of Dec. 31, 2018 ice extent is ~300k km2  (2%) less than average (2007 to 2017).  The chart also shows the variability of ice extent over the years during this month.  2007 ramped up to match average, while 2017 was almost 200k km2 lower than 2018 at year end.  SII is showing 2018 lower than MASIE 2018, closely matching MASIE 2017.

The table below shows this year compared to average and to 2017 for day 365.  Since several years in the dataset were missing day 365, I am making the comparison a day later.


Region 2018365 Day 365 
2018-Ave. 2017365 2018-2017
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 12805066 13107229 -302163 12628187 176880
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070498 1070245 253 1070445 53
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 966006 963990 2016 943883 22124
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1087133 5 1087120 18
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897842 3 897845 0
 (5) Kara_Sea 773183 889865 -116682 892689 -119507
 (6) Barents_Sea 261190 437725 -176534 331819 -70629
 (7) Greenland_Sea 522009 582349 -60340 555757 -33748
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1069626 1023935 45691 978074 91552
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853337 853059 279 853109 229
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260903 1230818 30086 1260838 66
 (11) Central_Arctic 3194383 3206157 -11774 3191526 2858
 (12) Bering_Sea 458758 422870 35888 194350 264408
 (13) Baltic_Sea 20842 35624 -14782 13345 7497
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 347016 375834 -28818 336595 10421

The main deficit to average is in Barents and Kara Seas on the Atlantic side, partly offset by surpluses in Hudson and Baffin Bays and in Bering Sea on the Pacific side.  Note the huge increase in Bering ice this year compared to 2017.  This coincides with the disappearing warm water Blob in the North Pacific, as reported by Cliff Mass.The Canadian and Siberian sides are locked in ice, with sizable surpluses in Baffin Bay and Okhotsk Sea.


No one knows what will happen to Arctic ice.

Except maybe the polar bears.

And they are not talking.

Except, of course, to the admen from Coca-Cola


There is no need to panic over Arctic ice this year, or any year.  It fluctuates according to its own ocean-ice-atmospheric processes and we can only watch and be surprised since we know so little about how it all works.  Judah Cohen at AER thinks much greater snowfall in October and since will make for a very cold winter.  We shall see.  It is already adding more mass to the Greenland ice sheet than in previous years.


See Natural Climate Factors: Snow

In any case, the early and extensive ice in the Canadian Arctic regions was well received by our polar bears.



via Science Matters

January 1, 2019 at 10:54AM

More Tornadoes? Capital Weather Gang Plug Flawed NOAA Study

By Paul Homewood



As I noted earlier today, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang have reported that last year is the first on record to have no EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes in the US.

The Capital Weather Gang long ago sold their souls to the global warming religion, and are usually very loathe to admit that sometimes the weather might be better because of a bit of warming.

At the very end of the above article, they get in their little dig:

Despite the downward trend in annual numbers, studies continue to find that more tornadoes are happening on fewer days. In that light, it is certainly possible this drought won’t last much longer.

In fact the study they refer to is hopelessly flawed, as I proved at the time.

But just to rehash, this is the narrative Climate Central published in 2016:


The impact of climate change on tornadoes is still an active topic of study. Early research suggests that the warming earth will provide more energy to produce the storms that generate tornadoes, but less shear to give the necessary spin. Observations over the past few decades have yielded a couple of interesting trends. While there are now fewer days with tornadoes in a given year, there are more tornadoes on the days when they do occur.

A 2014 NOAA study examined trends in the tornado record for a possible climate change signal.

Since the early 1970s, the nationwide average annual number of days with at least one (E)F1 or stronger tornado has dropped from 150 to 100. Yet, there has been an increase in the number of days with a very high number of tornadoes. In the 1970s, the average number of days with more than 30 (E)F1 or stronger tornadoes was less than one. In the last decade, that number had jumped to 3.

Only two years in the record had more than 750 (E)F1+ tornadoes – 1973 and 2011. But even during the active year of 1973, only 2 of those days had more than 30 tornadoes that rated (E)F1 or stronger. In 2011, that number ballooned to 9. Further, 2011 had as many days with more than 30 (E)F1+ tornadoes than the entire period between 1961 and 1981.

What the study did not reveal was the fact that many more of the weaker EF-1 tornadoes are now reported than in the past, because of changes in reporting practice, such as Doppler radar, storm chasers, cell phones and the rest.

It is well accepted that the historical numbers of the weakest EF-0 tornadoes should be ignored for this reason. For more detail, check out my post here.

But as NOAA themselves admit, the data on EF-1s was also unreliable in the past. Here is what they say:

Tornado reports have increased, especially around the installation of the NEXRAD Doppler radar system in the mid 1990s. This doesn’t mean that actual tornado occurrence has gone up, however. The increase in tornado numbers is almost entirely in weak (EF0-EF1) events that are being reported far more often today due to a combination of better detection, greater media coverage, aggressive warning verification efforts, storm spotting, storm chasing, more developmental sprawl (damage targets), more people, and better documentation with cameras (including cell phones) than ever. Modern averages of roughly 1200 per year nationwide probably are as close to the truth as we’ve ever seen. Another few decades of well-documented tornadoes will tell us more. To compare tornado counts before Doppler radars, we have to either adjust historical trends statistically to account for the unreported weak tornadoes of before, or look only at strong to violent (EF2-EF5) tornadoes, whose records are much better documented and more stable. When we do that, very little overall change has occurred since the 1950s.

In fact, it is incorrect to say very little overall change has occurred since the 1950s. Below is the true picture:


This is in direct contrast to the number of EF-1s, which indicate a broadly flat trend, with record numbers set in 2011 and 2017.


The contrast is even more stark when we examine the proportion of EF-1 tornadoes of the total, which has gone up from the 50%s in the 1970s to the 70%s in recent years. It should be noted that the number of EF-1s dwarf the number of stronger ones – typically 400 pa of EF-1s, compared to about 100 of the rest.


Reporting of EF-1s has probably only been consistent since the late 1990s. Prior to that, many EF-1s occurred without actually being reported.

Given the preponderance of EF-1s in overall totals, I find it astonishing that the authors of the NOAA 2014 study were allowed to get away with publishing a report using EF-1 data, and claiming that more tornadoes occur now on tornado days.

But, just supposing the EF-1 data is correct, the unmistakable conclusion is that, on average, tornadoes are becoming weaker.

But I doubt whether you will hear any of this from the Capital Weather Gang.


January 1, 2019 at 07:48AM