Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finland has less windpower than Vietnam!

Finland Produces Less Energy from Wind than Vietnam!
Finland is a progressive modern country that excels in promoting equality, social welfare, and public health.  Unfortunately one area where Finland has undertaken not so progressive policies is in renewable energy.

In wind power, Finland does not even appear in the GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council) 2011 study of installed wind power per million people.  The middle income Asian country of Vietnam even has more wind power installed per capita than Finland.  Finland’s Nordic neighbors of Sweden and Denmark have embraced wind as a power source and are leading the pack with Denmark ranked first and Sweden sixth.  The burning question is why does Finland not do more to enable wind power when it has the same natural endowment as Sweden and Denmark, strong and constant coastal winds?

According to an EU study on keeping on track with EU renewable energy targets. Finland needs work especially in the area of subsidies for private consumers in developing renewable energy from solar and wind sources.  The study also reports that some onshore wind power projects have been blocked by the Finnish Air Force due to defense radar interference.  Modifications to the radars can be made but this requires extra government expense.
This is not to say that Finland does not deserve recognition for their progress in renewable energy.  A recent YLE article touts Finland as ranked third in renewable energy use of all of the EU.  This is true according the EU source cited in the article of EU statistics of Share of Renewable Energy in Gross Final Consumption however when you look at the breakdown of electricity production, Finland still has much work to accomplish.

As you see in this graph from Statistics Finland for energy production in 2012 renewables made up an impressive share of electricity use of 41%.  Most of this has come from hydropower, and biofuels from wood, peat and black liquor (a byproduct in paper pulp production).   I would submit that biofuels are less preferable to other renewables such as sun and wind because they are less carbon neutral: they must be burned to produce energy.  Also, black liquor depends on the paper industry which is vulnerable to price fluctuations in paper.  Therefore the Finnish government should support more renewable power from wind, a natural resource it has in abundance, especially in the coastal areas of Finland and in the North tundra. 
Instead of recognizing this potential for wind power, plans for a new nuclear power plant have been recently approved and the subsidies for wind power are on the cutting list of the new government according to the Finnish Wind Power Association.  This will make wind produced energy much less competitive on the electricity market.

My point here in renewable energy production is that a heavy reliance on biofuels is not a good long term solution.  Biofuels produce more emissions when they are burned which is still causing climate change.  Finland must adopt more progressive policies toward wind power, its greatest potential in renewable energy.  At least Finland could modify its defense radar systems in order to enable more onshore wind parks.

More to follow on these topics.  Thank you for your attention.  All comments and evidence based arguments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting blog, Kirk.

    I have no problem with so-called renewable (a misnomer) energy sources like wind and solar per se. They have obvious niche uses like individual homes, remote places, etc. and may have a bigger future as technology gets better. But they aren't remotely close to powering an industrial society, yet. They are intermittent and unreliable, which is why Germany must back its solar and wind with coal-powered energy (which is very inefficient).

    Moreover, "renewables" have a low energy density, meaning you have to cover thousands of acres with windmills and solar panels to get meaningful power. This, of course, is detrimental to the environment of the land (or sea) and animals in that area, not to mention the rare earths, steel and iron needed to capture energy from solar and wind. In fact, wind power requires about 4 times more inputs of steel and concrete per megawatt output than coal. According to a UC Berkeley report:

    ". . . a typical wind energy system operating with 6.5 meters per-second average wind speed requires construction inputs of 460 MT of steel and 870 m3 of concrete per average MW(ave). Coal uses 98 MT of steel and 160 m3 of concrete per average MW(ave); and natural-gas combined cycle plants use 3.3 MT steel and 27 m3 concrete." (http://fhr.nuc.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/05-001-A_Material_input.pdf)

    Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if the amount of concrete needed to construct wind towers more than offset any savings of CO2 from using wind (since the concrete industry is one of the largest producers of CO2, according to Wikipedia). If one is concerned about an energy source's "carbon footprint," this should be taking into consideration.

    In my opinion, nuclear is the only viable alternative to fossil fuels for the near to medium-term future (Elon Musk notwithstanding). It is high-density, scalable, reliable, clean and the safest fuel around when properly engineered (even using technology from the 1950s, like we do now). If cutting CO2 emissions is your goal, maybe you should be working to ramp up nuclear power production instead of wind.