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Electricity in The Netherlands

Wind turbines increase fossil fuel consumption & CO2 emission.


First we describe the models presently used by others to calculate fuel saving and reduction of CO2 emission through wind developments. These models are incomplete. Neglected factors diminish the calculated savings.
Using wind data from a normal windy day in the Netherlands it will be shown that wind developments of various sizes cause extra fuel consumption instead of fuel saving, when compared to electricity production with modern high-efficiency gas turbines only. We demonstrate that such losses occur.
Factors taken into account are: low thermal efficiency at low power; cycling of back up generators; energy needed to build and to install wind turbines; energy needed for cabling and net adaptation; increase of fuel consumption through partial replacement of efficient generators by low-efficiency, fast reacting OCGTs.

1. Introduction

Several countries are investing heavily in the construction of wind turbines reportedly to save fossil fuel and to reduce CO2 emission. The wind comes free, the turbines do not pollute and there is no need to burn fossil fuel. However, this simple notion defended by staunch supporters of windturbines, has been criticized by several critical analysts, e.g. refs: 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12.
Wind does not blow according to the demand of electricity users. Sometimes there is no wind or too little wind, or too much. It would be no problem if there was an economic and practical way to store electricity and to use it from that storage whenever needed. Unfortunately we currently do not have such a storage option. Batteries have little capacity and they are much too expensive. There are other possibilities but none of them comes near to anything that is economically feasible. There is hydro power, (i.e. lakes in mountains) that can be pumped full if there is an electricity surplus and emptied when the power is needed. But this adds more cost to an already high-cost option. (With hydro storage, one loses a quarter to one third of the energy input.) For geographic reasons, most wind development locations don’t have this option anyway. This is certainly the case in the Netherlands. So the current practice is to have wind developments operate in connection to conventional powerplants. These generators step in when the wind fails and they can be switched off, or their output is reduced, if the wind blows. Thus, when considering wind power, one must factor in an augmenting conventional system (typically gas). A handicap complicating the selection of options is the absence in the public domain of factual data about the different producing units. So the arguments are mostly based on model computations, but there are exceptions. In the USA a BENTEK study used real emission data of power plants in Texas and Colorado. They became available due to the Freedom of Information Act. Its conclusion was: wind has no visible influence on fuel consumption for electricity production and the emission of CO2 in the atmosphere is not reduced13.
This shocking result did not convince decision makers yet. The negative result was attributed to a difference in fuel mix. Coal-, oil-, gas- and nuclear heated generators behave differently. So what might be true in that study, does not mean that it holds true for all of us.

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