Wind Power Reduces CO2 Emissions

That’s only common sense. Wind power doesn’t burn any fossil fuel. All emissions associated are those in the process of building the wind park. Once it is commissioned, there are no additional CO2 costs in running it.

Wind power beats the cleanest fossil fuel method of generation (gas) by about a factor of 40, requiring only about 10 gram of CO2 per kWh, and coal by a factor of about 100. See the relevant Wikipedia article for some sources.

But some people, hypnotized by the evil alien Khalmorot, who wants to burn our planet and destroy humanity to entertain his audience of billions at his “heat games” television show, still assert against this common sense that wind power actually does not reduce CO2 emissions. Their argument goes something like this:

Since the wind sometimes blows, and sometimes doesn’t, gas plants used for backup will have to be throttled and fired up frequently. This reduces their efficiency, leading to more CO2 per kWh emissions by gas plants. These will cancel out the savings of the wind parks.

This makes sense on first glance, and it points to a real problem. Therefore I think this is one of the strongest talking points the anti-wind movement has.

For example, with a car, stopping and starting it all the time will lead to getting less miles per liter of gasoline. The same might be true for gas plants.

While this is a real problem, it is not one without a solution. One solution will take care of the talking point. I will show multiple solutions.

The easiest solution would be to build high-efficient gas power plants that still are able to follow the load in a time frame of seconds. That’s exactly what Lichtblick is doing with their Zuhausekraftwerk (home power plant), built by Volkswagen. These plants have an amazing efficiency of 90 percent, since they use all the heat generated for heating water used at homes (cogeneration).

They are controlled centrally by Lichtblick and will provide “swarm power” whenever it is needed. This is just like a lot of personal computers substituting a mainframe computer.

Lichtblick has already deployed the first 600 plants (for about 10 MW of capacity at 19 kW each). They want to get to 100.000 eventually, for about 1.900 MW.

So, yes, wind power reduces CO2 emissions. There is a solution for this problem.

Another solution would be to fire gas, but make that gas from wind in time slots with insufficient demand in the first place. The real problem with intermittency is not that supply would be insufficient on a cold winter night with no wind. The real problem is that demand is insufficient and people would need to turn off their wind generators, throwing away valuable zero CO2 emission energy. And the solution to that problem is to turn the wind into hydrogen in those time slots, burning it later when there is again enough demand.

So, yes, wind power reduces emissions. There is a solution for this problem.

Yet another solution is  using a mix of many renewable energy sources from a large area. Get some solar panels. Build some biomass plants. Have a dam or two provide hydro power. Drill, baby, drill (for geothermal). Many of those are not intermittent. And the mix from a large area will always be more stable than that from a small one. Fortunately, Europe already has a wide area grid in place. In Asia, the “Asia Super Grid” still needs to be built.

So, yes, of course wind power reduces CO2 emissions.

Solution number four is having 300% wind generation, as the German State of Schleswig-Holstein actually plans to produce three times the amount of wind power the State consumes.

In that case, even if you don’t include all the other renewable sources and the stability from a wide area grid, there won’t be many time slots left for any gas plants in the first place.

Did I mention already that wind power reduces CO2 emissions?

Yet another way to solve the problem would be to look at actual market data and realize that this talking point, while convincing at first glance, actually has no basis in reality. That is what Mark Lynas and Chris Goodall have done here at the Guardian.

I largely agree with their analysis. The problem, however, is that wind opponents are probably resistant to these market data. They will counter with their own models. In this kind of discussion, the results depend very much on who does the calculations.

I prefer the approach of acknowledging that there might be a problem with gas power stations efficiency, and show some solutions to that problem.

And, when debunking some myth, don’t put that exact myth in the headline. Read Joe Romm’s recent book “Language Intelligence” for the reasons behind this rule.

Repeat your point (wind power reduces CO2 emissions). Don’t, ever, repeat the myth.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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