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Just change one rule — so the world can see what Wind and Solar really cost


Random power generators. Photo JoNova

Wind and solar power are the intermittent freeloaders on the electricity grid. They are treated as if they’re generators, adding power to the grid, but instead they provide something the grid doesn’t need — power that can’t be guaranteed.

Random gigawatts has the illusion of looking useful, but it’s the gift of a spare holiday house you don’t know if you can use til the day before. It’s the spare fridge in the garage that overheats in hot weather, the extra turkey for thanksgiving that might not arrive til the day after.  The bills, the storage, the clutter, the chaos.

As I keep saying in RenewablesWorld fuel bills go down, but the land-maintenance-staff-insurance-FCAS-storage-and-capital costs all go up.

RenewablesWorld is a place where a lot more people and machines sit around and watch cat videos on youtube.

Here’s a great plan by Terry McCrann.

The one rule that would expose wind power’s true cost

Terry McCrann, The Australian, Business Review

If you wish to sell power into the grid, the NEM or National Energy Market, you will have to guarantee a minimum level of supply and guarantee that minimum level of supply 24/7.

And critically, that minimum level can be no lower than 80 per cent of the maximum amount of energy you will be permitted to sell into the grid.

He gives the example of the 1,000MW wind farm that either has to promise 800MW or more like 200MW. If it’s 800 — which means the team has to buy a gas plant out the back (or a fixed deal with a group that owns one), and if you own that gas plant, you’d just run it, who needs the wind turbines? If it’s 200MW, then you the owner can only profit on sales up to 250MW max.

In the simplest example, you would have to build an (at least) 800MW gas power station next to your wind farm, which you would only use intermittently, on the whim of the weather. Suddenly, wind would not look so cheap; it would be exposed as certainly not being “free”.

Critically, you would not be allowed to sell up to that 1800MW into the grid, using both the gas and the wind turbines when the wind did blow.

And if they did generate 1800MW, the same group would need to blow away the 800MW, or pay for the battery or dam to store it.

Which leads to the obvious question:

Why would I build two so-called power stations, the real gas one and the fake wind one? Why wouldn’t I just build the one, the gas one?

Ur, yes. But in a really rational world you’d just build the one coal-fired station…

But the problem with what McCrann is suggesting is that it only works in that old anachronistic thing called a free market.  The RET’s got to go.  No renewable energy target to force the transition we don’t need to transit to.

The good thing about McCrann’s idea is that we could finally find out what wind and solar cost.

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