The Futility of Wind Energy

The timing of a load of wind turbine blades making their way by rail through Wichita this morning, was interesting. The the official NWS wind speed at the time was 3 mph -- which was too light for any electricity to be produced at any of the existing wind farms. 

In fact, the weather map of the region at 6am showed winds were too light not just in Wichita (arrow) but over a vast area of Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma -- states with an exceedingly high number of wind farms.
To decode: The large black circle around the inner green circle denotes calm winds. The green circles with the line sticking out of them and a half "barb" at about a 90° angle (I've put an "L" near a few) have winds too light to turn the blades. Where the line with a full barb exists, the winds are okay. As you can see, the vast majority of weather stations in the area have winds too light to generate electricity. 

Here's the thing: If someone had taken a magic wand and instantly tripled the number of wind turbines in Kansas and Oklahoma this morning, it wouldn't have made any difference. Calm winds mean no electricity.

The problem was not confined to the USA. This morning, I learned of a wind farm that produced negative wind energy for two days in Canada. Really! Story below.
For four days almost zero power. For two days the wind farm produced negative electricity!

How could it produce "negative" energy? The wind was so light during this period the blades were not turning. Because it takes power to run the farm (navigation lights, computers, etc.), the wind farm used one megawatt of electricity while producing zero. Negative energy. 

Around lunchtime Monday, I had a conversation on LinkedIn with a person in the wind energy business who could not seem to wrap his mind around the fact that wind energy fails when the wind goes calm or nearly calm. And, there's nothing anyone can do about it. Not "winterization," not different types of blades, nothing (well, maybe Michael Mann going out and blowing on them) can change that fact. 

No other form of energy has a systematic shortcoming that could prevent it from producing energy for four days. No other form of energy is more likely to fail when it is needed most?

Why? It is a meteorological fact that when it is extremely hot and extremely cold the winds are usually quite light. Note on the map that the -1°F temperature near the KS-NE border is with a calm wind. The lesson?
Extreme temperature = calm wind = no wind energy. 


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