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The Wind Doesn't Blow, and the Sun Doesn't Shine



May 09, 2011 – Comments (15)

all the time or so the common wisdom goes. But sometimes the "common wisdom" is wrong. The wind does blow all the time, it just doesn't always blow on you, making the "common wisdom" very believable.

And as it turns out, the wind blows strongest when the sun doesn't shine, and the sun shines strongest when the wind blows less.

In fact, because of that real coincidence, wind and solar could be considered "baseload" with conventional sources used to fill in the missing 20%, just as they do now - in the far off land of North Carolina.

And renewables could be scaled to do 100%.

The backup generation amounted to purchases from

other systems up to 5% of hourly loads, and 2,700 MW of gas-fired capacity. There were 17 hours

in the four months considered when still more backup power would be needed, or a loss-of-load

probability of .0058

The out-of-system purchases or back-up generation in the system dropped the wind-solar

contribution to 78% of the load. These results are shown in Table 1 of the main text (online at

The important conclusion is that intermittent solar and wind energy, especially when generated at

dispersed sites and coupled with storage and demand-shifting capacities of a system like North

Carolina’s, can generate very large portions of total electricity output with rather minimal auxiliary



Best wishes,


15 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 09, 2011 at 11:20 PM, FleaBagger (27.40) wrote:

I rarely express an opinion on whether or not we should use a lot of solar and wind power generation, because I don't know very much about them. I always advocate letting the market decide how it wants its power generated. The problem seems to be (from the little I have gathered about it) that solar and wind require substantial subsidies (more, net of taxes and liability caps, than oil and coal) to be "economical," and, though I know little about this also, nuclear advocates claim that it would be a better choice if only we repealed a ludicrous, counterproductive, environmentally unsound regulation prohibiting the reuse of something or other, the reuse of which would make nuclear plants produce energy at lower costs and with far less waste.

As I said, I don't know too much about these things, but I would support doing away with all subsidies, taxes, and liability caps. And I'm pretty sure that would end corn ethanol.  

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#2) On May 10, 2011 at 4:13 AM, valunvesthere (23.15) wrote:

As much as many people want clean solar and wind green energy investors don't want to invest in things that that are unknown and unproven in large scales.

Conventional energy using coal, fossil fuels, geo thermal, hydro, and nuclear has been developed and improved for decades. Advancements in methods, technology, and safety has made them more efficient, cleaner, and safe (always room for improvements). Making them attractive for investors because its known, proven, and pays very nice regular dividends.

The developed world won't see massive grand scale solar and wind technology infrastructure anytime soon because for the past 50+ years they've heavily invested in conventional energy technology infrastructure and won't abandon them overnight. The most cost efficient way is to use each conventional plant till its no longer cost effective to repair and replace with either wind or solar technology.

In my opinion this is the main reason why the developed world didn't sign the Kyoto Accord. Could anybody imagine reducing the output of every conventional plant and rationing energy to citizens? or worst Could anybody imagine shutting down all conventional plants and building green energy with in a time limit. Think of the cost and time all because of meeting Kyoto Accords strict quotas?

Finally, China has the advantage in green technology because they didn't invest heavily in conventional plants infrastructure like the developed world did in the past 50+ years (only produced what was needed). Majority of the aging plants has been torn down and replaced with advanced technological cleaner plants. With China's thirst for energy China has also started solar and wind technology infrastructure to reduce dependance on imports of raw energy resources. China could of signed the Kyoto Accord and shame the developed world for not doing enough and too slow to change, but I guess China and the developed world are more friend than foe.


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#3) On May 10, 2011 at 8:41 AM, devoish (76.68) wrote:


Interesting thoughts. I am not sure I agree. I am sure you have pointed out some more "common wisdoms" concerning energy. 


What free market are you referring to? Have you guys found an example free market economy that has brought prosperity to its population?

Once again, I will remind you that it was Qatar that was held up as a shining example of a free market success story. A story built on nationalising its oil industry in 1970, a model of success Venezuela is following today. But it is not the "free market" we hear theorized about at great length when an oil industry is nationalised, and a Nations natural resources are diverted by Government to invest in hospitals and roads and police forces and trains.

Best wishes,


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#4) On May 10, 2011 at 9:29 AM, miteycasey (28.99) wrote:

The bottom line is if solar was cheaper than oil, NG, and nuclear those plants would be scrapped and wind farms built.

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#5) On May 10, 2011 at 9:33 AM, mtf00l (42.82) wrote:

Not agreeing or disagreeing with anyone just pointing out a couple of things.

Last I checked Solar and Wind didn't produce coal ash by the hundreds of tons that have to be "hidden" by lying and lobbying.  Nor do they produce radioactive waste that stay radioactive waste for, well, longer than anyone will be alive born today.

Additionally, if an earthquake or a tsunami hit a Solar or Wind farm the "kill" factor is very low.  Not to mention the children born in the weather pattern of the damaged nuclear plant have a greater chance of being born nominal and surviving.

End of rant.


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#6) On May 10, 2011 at 9:51 AM, ETFsRule (< 20) wrote:


Great blog. I just want to mention that, while there is more wind at night, this is only true on land. At sea the opposite is true (the wind changes direction at night).

So, perhaps all we need to do is use offshore turbines during the day, and onshore turbines at night.

There is a similar phenomenon called the mountain breeze and the valley breeze, which also changes direction at night:

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#7) On May 10, 2011 at 1:34 PM, devoish (76.68) wrote:


Thanks, I enjoy taking an axe to the "common wisdom", ( ) and thanks for the additional data.

MT and Mitey,

The combination of your two posts demonstrates a failure of capitalism as it is practised in the United States today.

Cheaper is to often equated with better. Very rarely is cheaper actually better.

Best wishes,


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#8) On May 10, 2011 at 1:47 PM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

Well, I think this is going to work out worse than you think it will. (And I was a member of the IEEE Power Engineering Society for years, which is the professional body for power generation and transmission engineers.)

What will happen is it will do fine for a bit. Then we'll have a 50 year cold snap and a lot of people will be without power and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

What I am doing about it is looking at Onan and Tecumseh nat gas fired gensets. One that could run my house, with automatic transfer switches so that when the power goes out, it lights off and has enough juice to run the furnace and blower. Forewarned is forearmed.

Something like looks pretty sweet. 

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#9) On May 10, 2011 at 3:52 PM, FleaBagger (27.40) wrote:

Do you really think you're right? Or are you just doing a really elaborate demonstration of confirmation bias? I wonder sometimes, because you seem intelligent, until you start talking about economic public policy.

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#10) On May 10, 2011 at 4:07 PM, ryanalexanderson (< 20) wrote:


Given your background, do you happen to know anything about turning wood into electricity? Wood gasification, etc.? Would be a great cheap way to live off the grid if it were possible. Haven't seen much on the Internet in this area, though. 


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#11) On May 10, 2011 at 6:01 PM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

Given your background, do you happen to know anything about turning wood into electricity? Wood gasification, etc.? Would be a great cheap way to live off the grid if it were possible. Haven't seen much on the Internet in this area, though. 

Only the very basics. You burn wood with too little air to produce a carbon monoxide rich gas that can run an internal combustion engine, which turns a generator. It's a cool idea, but has practical problems like the gas generation is uneven so the engine zigzags from too lean to too rich, which is hard on the engine. It's also a good idea to have the gas generator outside and away from the building so that any leaking CO doesn't end up in your house.  I think the old Whole Earth Catalog had an entry for a unit, but details are lost in the fog of time.

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#12) On May 10, 2011 at 8:14 PM, devoish (76.68) wrote:


Confirmation bias? Maybe. Two years ago I also saw a plan laid out of how to power an entire nation on renewables. Germany. I am sure I linked to it here, on someones or my own blog.

Thanks for the "smart guy" comment, that was nice.

As far as our divergent opinions on economic public policy - right back atchya.


Cold snap? I am more worried about powering the ac's for this summers heat wave. Global warming and all that - as you know I've been a believer in the science of anthropogenic global warming while the deniers were still denying warming temperature trends.

During a cold snap the cold air does not stop the sun from shining or the wind from blowing. In fact data has been collected and used in the link I provided to prove it.

I am happy that your worries about the cold nights of each and every winter seem pacified now. It was your comments in my "is it too soon" posts I was referring to in the title. Your mention of a 50 year cold spell as a concern does kind of open the door to point out that the fukushima power plant did not see its 41st birthday. and as previously discussed the wind towers in the ocean survived the tsunami intact.

I should also point out that the power output of the wind towers used in the study was the 1.5 mwt GE design, which is now 3.6 and I remember seeing some talk of 5.0, but I cannot remember if it was proposed, designed or actually built.

I hope that allieviates some more of your worries.

Best wishes,


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#13) On May 11, 2011 at 11:37 AM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

Pacified? Actually I am assuming that we will make bad decisions for ideological reasons and that as a result the power grid will be less stable. So I'm doing what people in third world countries do and getting my own generator. It's sad that our infrastructure is getting worse, but we must face reality.

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#14) On May 11, 2011 at 7:08 PM, devoish (76.68) wrote:

That's a phrase I can agree with, but I believe the ideology that is driving bad decisions is "free market" ideology and/or "Government interference is always bad" ideology.

Without those ideologys, I believe that we would be much further along the path of a secure and safe energy future.

Best wishes,


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#15) On May 12, 2011 at 5:12 PM, mtf00l (42.82) wrote:


Thanks for the hat tip...

I read somewhere, and may actually look it up again later, that research has been conducted on a new kind if nuclear power plant that doesn't produce radioactive waste products or something to that effect.  Of course the problem is economic; "we're making money on what we have, why spend profits on something new?!".

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