May 29, 2023

Unusually Cool Weather in the West Means Lots of Wind Energy in the East

 This is a good time to charge up your electric car...particularly during the evenings.

The reason?  

Unusually cool weather is forecast for the next few days in western Washington and Oregon.  Seattle will be firmly into cool, marine air the next few days, with highs only reaching the LOWER 60s.

In contrast, it will remain warm over the Columbia Basin, with 80s for the first part of the week, climbing into the 90s by week's end.

This pattern is very favorable for producing healthy westerly winds along the eastern slopes of the Cascades and across the wind farms east of the Cascade crest.

Taken by Jeffrey Katz

The sea level pressure (solid lines), surface winds, and low-level temperature (colors) forecast for 2 PM Tuesday (below) show the story.  High pressure and cool temperatures (green) offshore, warmer temperatures (orange and red colors) east of the Cascade Crest.  You will notice a large pressure difference across the Cascades, which will produce strong winds over the east of the barrier.

A similar, but attenuated, version of this situation was in place today (Monday) and winds were gusting to 30-40 mph around Ellenburg and other eastern slope locations (see max gusts on Monday below).


Even stronger winds will occur on Tuesday and Wednesday.    The result will be lots of wind energy generation.  The Bonneville Power summary shows increasing wind generation the past few days (green line)...getting to roughly one-third of demand (red line).   Will do even better tomorrow and Wednesday.


Wind energy generation in our region is unfortunately out of phase with demand.  When we have mild temperatures--and little need for AC-- there is lots of wind energy.  But when we really cook, wind energy is quite small since the westerly winds are absent then.

The cool temperatures in the west won't last forever.  The latest forecast suggests that we will warm up to near-perfect temperatures in western Washington by next weekend.


And relatively toasty (upper 90s) over the Columbia Basin






16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great work you do Cliff!

    FYI - A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tons of steel, requiring 170 tons of coking coal and 200 tons of iron ore - all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbon-spewing processes and machines. A windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.

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    1. I appreciate discussion on this topic, but without sources a critique it isn't as effective. Per typical studies, the embodied carbon of a wind turbine is 5% of the energy produced assuming no recycling of inputs or outputs. Critiques are useful, but they need to be fact based.

      https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/06/whats-the-carbon-footprint-of-a-wind-turbine/.
      https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Embodied-energy-of-30-MW-wind-turbine-by-component_fig3_223338285

      Delete
    2. First of all MacD, your text is plagiarized, word for word, from an essay written by
      David Hughes, fifteen years ago. Second, David Hughes has also elaborated that this quote has been taken out of context by the anti-renewable crowd and has been passed around as "truth" for the better part of a decade now. Here's the actual quote. “The concept of net energy must also be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics. A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is, a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.” Shame on you.

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    3. LOL yes it reminds me of another example.. those emissions check stations that the state used to run. Those were built to save the planet from all those dirty cars we used to drive around. But how much pollution was generated driving to and from those stations? Driving back and forth, paying exactly $100 to get your car "tuned up" so it would get a fake pass? Like so many things people like these days, It's just feel-good political theatre.

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    4. You might as well include the entirety of the paragraph. The one above omits some fairly relevant text. The paragraph in full from the book "Climate Shift" (2009) reads: “The concept of net energy must also be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics. A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is, a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.”

      Delete
    5. That quote is a meme taken out of context, rebutted here:
      https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-windturbines-misleadingmeme/fact-check-meme-claiming-that-wind-turbines-are-inefficient-misquotes-expert-idUSL1N2R31IG

      Delete
    6. https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/2021/10/13/wind-turbine-never-generate-much-energy-cost-build/8423146002/

      Delete
    7. You omitted a key sentence from the passage. Here's the full paragraph:

      “The concept of net energy must also be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics. A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is, a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.”

      Delete
  2. This Memorial Day weekend truly had splendid weather: sunny, with pleasant temps and a nice breeze but, most of all, wonderful low dew point temperatures! In fact, as of noon on 5/30, the dew point has yet to reach 50F at my location in Bellingham. Hopefully this most welcome dry air sticks around for awhile...

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  3. I appreciate your commentary on how the NW’s wind production varies by season. However, I think you are not considering the broader context.

    The EIA’s realtime grid shows how the NW grid handles its power production. It reveals that we rely on hydropower as a large battery that changes its flow during the day to match demand and supply. Wind and solar generation mainly influence when we use our hydropower.

    But sometimes, we face challenges when we have too much wind and hydro production in May that surpass our transmission limits and cause line-limited power. This demonstrates why we need more high-voltage transmission lines that connect different regions.

    I agree that our wind generation is suboptimal, but fortunately we have many dams!

    If you want to learn more, you can visit this site and explore the graphs. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric_overview/regional/REG-NW

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  4. Just noticed from that graph that our one nuke plant is closed for refueling this month. Good time to do it.

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    1. Columbia Generating Station partially refuels and refurbishes every 2 years when hydro is expected to be strong. The 26th refueling outage (R-26) will begin May 5, 2023 and is scheduled for 35 days.

      About 1,250 skilled workers, hired locally and from across the country, will join Energy Northwest’s workforce of about 1,000 employees, to support refueling and maintenance projects.

      Workers will replace 248 of 764 nuclear fuel assemblies in Columbia’s core with new fuel.

      Delete
  5. found this of interest: https://interestingengineering.com/science/3-year-la-nina-supercomputer-reveals-wildfires-thousands-miles-away

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  6. Hey , MacD, I decided to look that up and it appears to be a misquote. Check out this link. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-windturbines-misleadingmeme/fact-check-meme-claiming-that-wind-turbines-are-inefficient-misquotes-expert-idUSL1N2R31IG

    ReplyDelete
  7. Northwest Public Broadcasting and the PBS science show Nova hosted an event in Moscow, Idaho, focusing on climate change issues as these affect the more regional issue of how to save the salmon runs on the Snake River.

    NOVA | NWPB 'Climate Across America' Event, April 6th 2023

    The YouTube caption reads: "The Northwest is known for its carbon-free, affordable power. It’s also known for its iconic salmon runs. In a battle over dams and salmon, what will happen when one side wins? If the dams on the lower Snake River are removed, it would be the largest dam removal project in the Northwest. How can the Northwest survive without these dams? How can it survive with them?"

    The current approach to managing salmon uses a combination of fish hatcheries, fish transport, fish ladders on dams, and water flow management policies over and through the Snake River and Columbia River dams. Its long term success is far from certain. The alternative approach is to remove the four major dams on the Snake River in Washington State. Those who advocate and those who oppose dam removal have each marshaled climate change issues to support their respective positions.

    Prior to the beginning of dam construction in the mid-1930's, salmon runs in the US Northwest had already been reduced by roughly 70% from a combination of mining, agriculture, habitat loss, and over-fishing. The construction of Grand Coulee Dam in the 1930's, and Hells Canyon Dam in the 1940's, closed off the upper Columbia River and upper Snake Rive salmon spawning grounds, further reducing the size of Northwest salmon runs to less than five percent of what they had been in the 1850's.

    None of the Columbia River dams is now a target for removal, nor are any of the Snake River dams in Idaho. Those dams supply a large portion of region's electric power, and the cost of removing them could approach 500 billion dollars or more. Removing the four Snake River dams in Washington State is by itself a 30 billion dollar proposition.

    The four Snake River dams in Washington State generate a total of 9.8 Terawatt-hours of electricity annually. For comparison, the Columbia Generating Station in Richland produces 8.5 Terawatt-hours annually. In theory, a combination of wind and solar backed by grid-scale batteries could replace the 9.8 Terawatt-hours generated from the four Snake River dams. (In theory.) But there is this huge problem.

    The United States consumes 3930 Terawatt-hours of electricity annually. The Biden Administration has a policy goal of achieving Net Zero in the electric power sector by 2035, with a technology focus on wind and solar backed by grid-scale batteries, plus the construction of thousands of miles of new power transmission infrastructure. Most of this technology must come from China, from other suppliers in Asia, and from Europe.

    Competition for limited supplies of renewable energy technology will drive up its costs. Only those willing to pay its costs will gain access to the supplies of RE equipment which will actually be available between now and 2035. California, New York State, and other states in the US Northeast and the mid-Atlantic will be getting the great bulk of the wind turbines, the solar panels, the grid-scale batteries, and the power distribution equipment purchased within the next ten years.

    Could new-build nuclear close the gap? Not a chance. Too much work is needed to rebuild America's nuclear industrial base, a process which will not be complete until the mid 2030's at the earliest.

    Net Zero is being strongly pushed regionally and locally all across the nation. Fossil-fueled power plants will be closing faster than they can be replaced. Energy conservation is the order of the day. Within the next decade, we must all learn to live with roughly two-thirds of the electricity we consume today, while paying a larger portion of our incomes for the privilege of using it.

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  8. I was flying my (slow) airplane westbound near Ellensburg on Monday evening, and putting up with a headwind. I was able to access a RAP skew-T in flight that accurately forecast the 27 knot NW wind at 4500' that I was experiencing, but I realized that it was predicted to be in a narrow altitude band. Sure enough, climbing to 6500' got me headwinds of only 11 knots (and saved a few gallons of gas). I noted that the temperature dropped only about 4°C during that climb.

    This appears to be related to the regional "sea breeze" that you describe in "The Weather of the Pacific Northwest". Is it typical for that setup to have the higher winds in a low-altitude band? Seems like that would result in an inversion. Or was this something different?

    ReplyDelete

Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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