Author: Robert Wilson

What are the capacity factors of America’s wind farms?

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In energy it is important know what to count.

Consider this simple question. Which country is number one in terms of wind energy? In terms of total installed wind capacity it is China. At the end of last year it had 114 GW of installed capacity, in contrast to 66.2 GW in the United States (BP, 2015).

China is number one, then, by a long way. Not so fast. Last year America’s wind farms produced a total of 183.6 TWh of electricity, whereas China’s produced 158.4 TWh (BP, 2015).
Read the rest of this entry »

Mapping Scotland’s wind farms in R and Google Maps

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I thought I would put up some R code I have for mapping wind farms in Scotland. This is hopefully of use to some readers.

Data source

Scottish National Heritage publishes a regularly updated – i.e. every 12 months – data set of all wind farms in Scotland by status. It can be downloaded here, and it requires you to go through a short registration programme. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tory Party will reduce the cost of renewables by increasing the cost of renewables

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A list of words that most accurate describe the qualities of British energy policy debates: special pleading, vacuity, irrationality, wishful thinking, inconsistency, stupidity, innumeracy, and ultimately nimbyism. There really is nothing positive to be said for the whole business.

The answer to all of our problems is to just say no. No to nuclear. No to coal. No to wind turbines blighting the view of our mythical countryside. No to fracking. No to solar farms. The only thing we aren’t willing to say “no” to is gas and oil from Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern tyrants with a willingness to fund Islamist barbarism. Read the rest of this entry »

An energy data wanted list

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Anyone who reads this blog will know that there is a relatively large number of publicly and freely available statistical data sets covering the global energy system. However, there are a number of data sets that are either not available or behind a pay wall.

Here are a few.

  1. The average efficiency of gas boilers in countries throughout the world. National data sets exist, but I don’t believe anyone has compiled international figures.
  2. Percentage of houses that have switched to electric heating by country.
  3. Up to date listings of all power plants in countries, with details of age, capacity, etc. (You can get this if you pay a pretty penny.)
  4. Average efficiencies of existing and new solar panels.
  5. Hourly output data for individual wind turbines. (This is currently proprietary information, as far as I understand, but regulators could easily force wind farm owners to make it public.)
  6. An international database of capacity factors of all power plants, including wind farms. This is how it works with nuclear power plants, with the IEAE providing annual load factors for all nukes.
  7. An up to date database of the coordinates of wind turbines. USGS provides this for America’s wind turbines. However, if turbine level capacity factors were available, more in depth research could be performed on both the optimal arrangement of wind farms and more reliable calculations of the spatial requirements of wind farms.

I am sure more there are more that can be added to this list, and if someone knows of a data set covering any of the above, even at the national level, then add a comment.

Energy policy should not be based on fantasy models of future energy prices

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The UK is “running out of money to pay for clean energy“, so the Guardian informs us today. There are supposedly a number of reasons for this. Installations of heavily subsidised solar panels on houses in sun drenched Hampshire are far ahead of where the government wants them to be, and the government might have screwed up by assuming new offshore wind farms would be less productive than they actually are. I’m still skeptical of the latter claim.

But the other reason, and an indisputable one, is that the government and everyone else was wrong about fossil fuel prices.

The basic problem is this. Government funds basically pay the difference between the price of renewables and the wholesale price of electricity. But if fossil fuels get cheaper the wholesale price also gets cheaper, and this results in more money having to be spent on renewables. Read the rest of this entry »

The latest batch of dubious economy statistics from China

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China’s latest GDP growth figure is in and everyone is surprised. Despite indications to the contrary China’s GDP grew by 7% in the second quarter of this year. Hallelujah!

This marks the second quarter in a row where GDP growth was exactly 7%. How delightfully precise and on target.

Not that there is any evidence that these statistics are fake. Read the rest of this entry »

Graph of the day: the rise of Hollywood in China

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Three years ago Looper – a rather good film – became the first Hollywood film to make more money in its opening weekend in China than it did in America. This feat, once rare, has now become the norm. China’s box office takings now rival those in America for many of the largest films.

The godawful Furious 7 made $390 million in China, $40 million more than in America. This marks the second year in a row where the top grossing film in China made more there than in America.

Last year Transformers: Age of Extinction – dreadful films where hunks of steel are involved in violent set pieces are all the rage in the People’s Republic – made $320 million, almost $80 million more than in America.

I thought I would check how rapidly the grosses of Hollywood films have risen recently. Quite astonishingly, they have increased by something like a factor of ten in the last decade.


In 2007, the top grossing film was Transformers, which pulled in $37 million. This is one tenth of what Furious 7 has made. Furthermore, two other films, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World – tiresome sequels, both – have made more than $200 million.

The consequences of all of this are complex. Depending on your tastes two things might happen. China might open up more as a result of watching Hollywood films.

But if you are pessimistic, then you can only conclude that the opposite might happen. Hollywood will never make the Chinese equivalent of Schindler’s List, even if it wanted to. No major studio will consider making an honest film about the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, out of the fear that China will block the release of all of that studio’s other films in China.