Fickle, Thy Name is Wind

It is a still in Sydney town, the trees show no movement, as I walk for the paper and a coffee on this Saturday morning. Mind you, it is sunny, so there’s that. No doubt the grid is being fed by households with subsidised rooftop solar panels and by the solar blots strewn across the landscape. Methinks, have they thought about putting solar panels offshore? No, silly, they put turbines offshore to capture extra wind and to avoid paying rent for land. But it’s got to be expensive. Hasn’t it, I ponder?

When I googled, the first source atop the page, said that a 12MW offshore turbine costs up to $400 million to make and install. Seems much too much, so I put it aside. A Statista analysis puts the cost in 2022 as being USD 3,461 per kW. In Aussie dollars that translate to about $5.2 million dollars per MW. Or over $62 million for a 12MW turbine. Two things, it seems that per-MW, capital costs increase as the size of turbines increase. And, second, note that the turbines that Chris Bowen in a wet dream imagines being built off the Illawarra coast are supposedly 15MW giants.

The plan, or, more correctly, the wild aspiration, is to install turbines 268 metres tall – at the tip of the blade – across an area of 1,022 km2, 20 kms offshore at the nearest point. The cost has been officially estimated at $10 billion. Apparently, they will have a capacity to produce 2,900 MW. Arithmetic (2900/15) therefore points to there being 193 turbines at a capital cost of $52 million each. Already this seems optimistic, to say the least.

I am going to take a wild guess at this point. I don’t think this thing will be built but if it were it would cost a lot more than $10 billion. Call me a realist, but I think Snowy 2.0 provides a better guide to madcap-project costs. Recall costs have jumped sixfold from $2 billion to $12 billion, on the way to $20 billion and more once the wires and poles are included. Apply that modelling to Illawarra and the sky’s the limit. Which is why it will never be built.

Announcements are cheap – apparently over fifty offshore Australian wind projects have been proposed – thankfully, none are within cooee of being actually built. Let’s face it, projects are being cancelled overseas right, left and centre; e.g., here, here and here. Why? Simple, they are too costly. Ah, the bane of those with dreams aplenty – cost.

Back to my start. Wind turbines work better offshore. Still, even offshore, the wind is fickle. Aye lads, we be becalmed. Coleridge is instructive in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Day after day, day after day / We stuck, nor breath nor motion / As idle as a painted ship / Upon a painted ocean.

Offshore wind averages about 40 percent of its capacity. Thus the 193 (15MW) turbines will churn out an average of 1,160 megawatt hours. Over a year this comes to a total of a little over 10,000,000 megawatt hours. Ignoring maintenance costs, which will be substantial, a return on capital of 10% per annum (very low considering the risky project), and on just an optimistic $10 billion of capital cost, requires that each megawatt hour be charged at a rate of $100.

That figure is, I suppose, within the current ups and downs of wholesale prices. According to AEMO the average wholesale price of electricity was $83.83 per megawatt hour in the fourth quarter of 2023 (U.S. prices are about AUD50 by the way). However, plug in a more realistic capital cost, running and maintenance costs, the costs of disposal and replacement of turbines in, say, twenty years, and the problem that dare not speak its name – that is, the need to fill the gaps when the wind don’t blow – and you have some very, very expensive electricity. Full of risk, full of cost, full of intermittency.

Do the climate whippersnappers who envision these madcap schemes ever do any sums? Maybe they can’t do sums; their formative school years being spent on all things Aboriginal and gender queer.

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June 29, 2024 3:04 pm

The final 2024 ISP shows that AEMO has successfully concluded their divorce from reality?

June 29, 2024 5:01 pm

Labor has conceded gas will be required when the wind isn’t blowing.

That’s also going to be expensive (if it’s available, that is).

And another thing…all these turbines and solar panels come from China.

This policy is stupid on several levels.

Last edited 23 days ago by Roger
June 29, 2024 5:02 pm

I read this week that BP is freezing hiring and is pausing its new offshore wind projects.(I think this applies to Britain or maybe it’s world wide. Regardless, there are some salutary messages for Bowen and co who seem to think raising private capital will be as easy as spending taxpayers’ dollars).
The reasons given for BP’s move away from offshore wind – A slow return on investment, failure to deliver promised profits, pressure from shareholders for destroying shareholder value and an activist lobby group, comprising a major hedge fund that wasn’t happy about returns. It seems the company’s plans were perceived as outpacing the reality of the transition. It will now focus on better and quicker returns from oil and gas.

June 29, 2024 5:11 pm

And another thing…

Global coal production reached its highest ever level in 2023, boosted by China & India.

World oil demand is also pushing to record levels of consumption.

There is no “transition” happening on a planetary scale, which makes Australia’s miniscule reduction of carbon emissions (assuming they’res bad for argument’s sake) even more absurd.

Last edited 23 days ago by Roger
June 29, 2024 5:46 pm

There is no “transition” happening on a planetary scale, which makes Australia’s miniscule reduction of carbon emissions (assuming they’res bad for argument’s sake) even more absurd.

The enviroloons were always harping on about Australia become one big strip mine or “hole in the ground”.

Their push for renewables has led to us becoming a mine for subsidies with the only hole being the one in our pockets. And by “our” I mean the net taxpayers of this country.

another ian
another ian
June 29, 2024 9:14 pm

From a different view point –

As quoted –

“I am an engineer at a company that builds ships. I work with Naval Architects. I was looking at their professional association’s (Royal Institution of Naval Achitects – RINA) website and noticed that they released a free, digital supplement to their member’s magazine:

Offshore Wind Vessels 2024 Supplement

( )

It looks at offshore wind from a perspective that most probably haven’t thought about – the ships that are used to construct and service them – construction service operation vessels (CSOVs, SOVs).

From a sceptic’s pov, this magazine is fascinating. While they tend to treat offshore wind as a good way to generate more orders for ships, there’s some lucid evaluations of risks (such as public sentiment and nuclear). Definitely check out the section on floating wind. It explains how it’s done, the types of ships needed, and why investors are baulking at ordering any of the ships.”

Follow up comments doubt that any will be venturing our way.

So the next “ElBowen” project will need to be “Skyhooks Oz”

June 30, 2024 5:00 am

Yesterday in Daniel’s Dump it was cold wet no sun no wind and no gas same today Waiting for the blackouts to punish who voted for him unfortunately blackouts will affect conservatives as well .

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
June 30, 2024 11:10 am

The truth is that they don’t even try to realistically add up.

Costs are irrelevant to them. It’s like cathedral building in the 12th century and beyond. The glory of the edifice is all that matters. It’s a religion.

Rod Stuart
Rod Stuart
June 30, 2024 12:16 pm

While government illustrates its illiteracy, Hydro Tasmania demonstrates why no renewable is secure; not even hydro. 

There is a drought about every nine or ten years in the hydro lakes catchment. 

This year, it coincides with a wind drought. 

Hydro has been running the Tamar Valley Power Station for the past month; for the first time in five years. 

The combined cycle unit TVCC201 generates 200 Mw 24 hours a day. 

At the thermal efficiency or 50% this represents 34560 gigajoules of gas every day. 

In fact it is quite often that TVPP104 (a 60 Mw Rolls Royce Trent 60) runs during the daytime. At a thermal efficiency of 40% this represents a consumption of 1800 gigajoules of gas each half day. 

This is necessary to keep the lights on since the hydro lakes are low and there is no wind. 

This is something that never occurs to Chris Bonehead. 

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
June 30, 2024 6:43 pm

A sleeper issue with offshore wind is maintenance and lifetime.

Pounding by the waves exerts extra stress on the equipment that onshore wind turbines don’t have. So the empirical numbers for offshore wind turbine maintenance have been generally a lot higher than expected. And the life of the turbines shorter.

This is similar to wave energy proposals: the endless pounding by waves is a serious problem from a point of engineering and materials of construction.

All this feeds into much higher capital and operating costs, so that the better wind availability is pretty much negated.

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