I would like to show you something very important here, something that supporters of Renewable Power conveniently neglect to mention. To demonstrate this, I’m going to construct a comparison between coal-fired power and wind power.
To do this comparison, I’m going to spend exactly the same amount of money both for the coal-fired plant and the wind plant, and because I live here in Australia, I’ll be doing it in Australian Dollars, but as the cost factor is not the part I’ll be drawing your attention to, that cost is mentioned just as an indicator, and for the sake of the exercise, the amounts will be the same both for the coal-fired plant and the wind plant, and at each stage I will give a careful explanation.
Pretending that money is really no object, let’s then construct one of those new technology large-scale coal-fired plants that are now being constructed in China, India, and at a number of other places around the World. These plants are the new technology USC (UltraSuperCritical) plants. The Chinese have now mastered the technology and these plants have been under construction in China for more than 4 years now.
While these plants are indeed coal-fired plants, because of the technology, they actually burn up to 15% less coal than equivalent existing older technology coal-fired plants. That’s 15% less coal being consumed, hence 15% less CO2 being emitted.
Because the technology produces larger amounts of high temperature high pressure steam, these plants can in fact drive generators that produce more power, again, another thing that the Chinese have succeeded in scaling up. While older technology plants typically can only drive generators that produce 660MW, these newer technology Chinese plants can drive generators that can produce 1000MW and more, previously only the province of large-scale nuclear power plants.
So, for the purpose of the exercise, we will be constructing a large-scale coal-fired plant with 2 of these size generators, hence the Total Capacity will be in that typical large-scale range of 2000MW plus.
Now, China can construct one of these plants for $1.2 Billion, a seemingly large amount. However, as everything is so cheap in China, especially labour costs, then there’s no way known that a plant of this nature can be constructed in the already Developed World for that price.So, we now have to look elsewhere for an actual plant of this nature being constructed in a place that could give us a good handle on what the true cost might be.
Germany is actually in the stages of constructing these new technology plants themselves. They have already gone down the path of Renewable power, and have seen, quite starkly, how it absolutely fails to deliver the power required on the basis required. So, Germany is now making plans to construct these new large-scale plants, almost 20 of them, in fact, and they actually now have a couple of them up and running, and supplying power to the grids in Germany.
One of those is the new unit at the Neurath plant. This plant actually has 2 generators capable of 1100MW, for a total output of 2200MW, so this is what I will be using for the sake of comparison.
Now, while the Chinese can do this for that $1.2 Billion, Germany has found that the cost for them is $3.4 Billion. (The plant actually cost the Germans €2.6 Billion.) Note how in the Developed World, a plant of this nature costs almost three times as much to construct as it costs in China.
So now we have a baseline for our comparison.
Okay then, knowing that, we are now going to spend exactly that same amount of money on Wind Power.
Now, unlike some Renewable Power supporters who do all their costings on modelling, LCOE (Levelised Cost Of Electricity) these paper exercises always gives false outcomes, making coal-fired power more expensive, as I explained in my earlier Guest Post here at this site, those same models also seem to come up with Wind Plants that are artificially cheaper, hence making coal-fired power look bad, and wind power look attractively so much better.
However, unlike those who use their clever models to do their paper comparisons, I use real World costings for real World Constructions.
In the same manner as I found a real World example for a new technology coal-fired plant, let’s then use a real World example for wind power.
Currently, here in Australia, there is a new proposal to construct a large-scale Wind Plant on King Island, off the North West coast of Tasmania, that large Island just to South of Mainland Australia.
This proposed plant will cost $2 Billion. For this amount, they will be constructing between 200 and 250 huge turbines. The height at the hub of each tower will be 105 metres, (341 feet) with a swept diameter of 90 Metres. The nacelle on top of the tower will hold a generator capable of delivering 3MW.
Now, while the proposal is not solid on its numbers, let’s go with the higher amount of turbines they hope to construct (250) for this $2 Billion. So now we have to scale this up to the original outlay, so for that $3.4 Billion, we’ll get 425 of those huge towers. Each will have 3MW turbine/generators, so now we have a total Capacity of 1275MW. Keep in mind here, that there’s not many wind plants of that size, so realistically, we are looking at 2 of these large-scale wind plants, but the main thing here is the original amount of money.
Now, straight up, you notice that even though the original cost is exactly the same, the wind plant only has a total capacity of 1275MW, while the coal-fired plant has a capacity of 2200MW, so right up front, this coal-fired plant is 72% larger in its total power.
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© Tony from Oz 2013