General and Technology
Wind energy opponents often rattle off a litany of objections: Windmills aren't aesthetically pleasing (a notion many dispute); they pose a danger to migrating birds; they're noisy; they're inefficient and expensive. But a new proposal for a deep-water, off-shore wind farm answers all the skeptics' objections and, in addition to its environmental benefits, could be an economic boon to Fall River.
Blue H USA LLC has recently installed the world's first deep-water windmill off the coast of Italy and now wants to bring that technology to the SouthCoast ...It turns out answering the critics is actually a benefit to the technology, as 90 percent of the potential energy from wind is well offshore in deep water.
Royal Dutch Shell took a lot of flak when it pulled out of the huge "London Array" offshore wind farm in the U.K. last week. The prevailing explanation for the withdrawal? Higher oil prices make old-fashioned energy a more attractive investment than still-immature renewable energy. Perhaps there's a less-conspiratorial explanation. Maybe offshore wind power just isn't up to snuff yet. Denmark's Vestas, the world's biggest wind-turbine maker, today said Europe should curb its enthusiasm for massive offshore wind farms, and focus on regular onshore wind power.
One litre of solid or liquid fossil fuel contains tens of thousands of times the energy of one litre of wind-turbine air moving at 20 knots, the speed needed for viable large wind turbines.
A 2000mw steam station using compacted fossil fuel can be housed in a single building.
Large turbines in suitable wind can generate about 10mw per sq km of land, so it needs 200 sq km to replace that coal station if wind blew continuously, but more to compensate for periods when some turbines are becalmed. ...The above large magnitudes should be borne in mind. Solar energy cannot be harvested in small structures, so they will always be highly visible.
While it is correct that wind, wave and other renewable energy can save on CO2 emissions synchronizing demand and output to protect the grid comes at a heavy price. In a report by David White, Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating the Potential Contribution from Wind-Power, commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation, December 2004, White found that, "Fossil-fuelled capacity operating as reserve and backup is required to accompany wind generation and stabilize supplies to the consumer. That capacity is placed under particular strains when working in this supporting role because it is being used to balance a reasonably predictable but fluctuating demand with a variable and largely unpredictable output from wind turbines.
"Consequently, operating fossil capacity in this mode generates more CO2 per kWh generated than if operating normally."
The starting point is the broad brush statement in the paper that no power supplies are perfectly reliable. This is correct provided you don't ask about the details. If you did, the devil would point out that there is a difference between a naturally intermittent supply and a supply which trips or goes off line unexpectedly. There is a difference in scale and time. Contemporary distributed electricity systems have devised ways of insuring continuity of supply for the latter events but are struggling to deal with the former. This is not comparing like with like. ...Intermittent supply adds an extra stretch for the control of a network. Wind farms illustrate the problem. A standard measure of the performance of a generator is the capacity factor. This is the annual averaged power achieved as a percentage of the installed (or maximum) capacity. ...But this factor gives no indication of the detailed performance. A measure that helps give an indication of this is a reliability figure. This is the minimum percentage of power that may be relied upon for 90 per cent of the time. For wind farms it is about 5 to 10 per cent
The message gets repetitious: There needs to be more electrical power transmission capacity in and from North Dakota ... more transmission capacity ... more ...
So, isn’t the answer as simple as stringing a bunch of lines?
The fact is, no. The power has to have somewhere to go and must travel by an extraordinarily complex network of technology. For our area it’s managed by a strange entity called the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. ...All told, he wrote, Midwest’s queue has 224 wind projects, a 64 percent increase in one year. Not all will make it through the process; actually only 32 percent will end up connecting and producing. About 40 percent of requests drop out before even commencing the required FERC study. And 10 percent of those in the queue don’t help matters at all, because they’re just sitting on approvals, making no effort for up to three years, while a wind farm planned for Elgin could be taking one of those places in line. It becomes more apparent why there is not unseemly haste to string lines.
Then I saw the $20,000 price tag.
Suddenly, I wasn't thinking about renewable wind power so much.
But in the end, it won't be the cost that keeps my family from generating its own kilowatts annually.
It'll be the wind, or more correctly, the lack thereof.
Terry Kelly, the member-services manager at Salem Electric, said that despite the growth of wind power in Oregon during the past 15 years, there just aren't that many sites in Salem that are appropriate for wind turbines.
It seems, he said, that there just isn't the wind speed necessary to drive those big, bad blades.
The Florida Public Service Commission demands that electrical utilities provide reliable power at reasonable rates. Despite this mandate, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a series of executive orders requiring utility companies to begin work by Sept. 1 towards generating at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources with an emphasis on solar and wind energy.
Although well-intentioned, these executive orders were apparently signed without considering that Florida does not have high-intensity sunlight as found in low-humidity deserts and lacks sufficient wind energy to make wind turbines feasible.
More than half of our electricity comes from coal. Gas and nuclear generate 36 percent of our electricity. Barely 1 percent comes from wind and solar. Coal-generated power typically costs less per kilowatt-hour than alternatives - leaving families with more money for food, housing, transportation and health care.
By 2020, the United States will need 100,000 megawatts of new electricity according to forecasts from the Energy Information Administration, and industry and utility company analysts. Unreliable wind power simply cannot meet these demands. ...We cannot afford to trash the energy we have, and substitute energy that exists only in campaign speeches and legislative decrees. Doing so would leave a huge Energy Gap between what we need and what we have.
Poor and minority families can least afford such "energy policies."
Wind power is not the answer to global warming. Do we have alternatives? We certainly do have alternatives to windmills but they would disrupt the lifestyle of electors and consumers. In Paris, an article in the September 2007 issue of the medical journal, The Lancet, shows with supporting calculations that it would be better to minimize human consumption of meat, for 80% of agriculturally produced methane comes from farm animals. Wind turbines won't even alter the greenhouse gas equation but by a mere .03%, as mentioned above. The way to reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases is to use less energy. Governments must massively invest in energy conservation measures rather than in these wind machines. According to another research, if every English household switched for one single low energy light bulb, a fossil fuel-burning electrical plant could be shut down!
Wind power would only be interesting if energy produced can be stored. It has been proposed to fill reservoirs of large hydroelectric dams, for example. An Australian method has just offered in September 2007 to store electricity in liquid accumulators. Quebec would thus be able to utilize wind energy because the major part of our electricity comes from hydroelectric dams, which is not the case for Ontario or New York where, as almost everywhere else in the world, wind power must be backed up by carbon-based generating stations.
There is enough deuterium for millions of years of energy supply, and easily accessible lithium for several thousands of years. With essentially zero long-lived radioactive waste, zero greenhouse-gas emissions and none of the safety concerns associated with fission reactors, one can begin to see the attraction of fusion power.
It is the green technology with the most potential to make a real difference to the climate-change debate.
Time and technology have caught up with Cape Wind. Its advantage of six years ago as a novel proposal is now flattened by the advance of deeper-water wind technology (as well as promised advances in wave and tidal energy generation).
By the time Cape Wind could be up and running - by 2011 or 2012 at the earliest - commercial-scale deeper-water projects will be a reality. No matter how you spin it, deeper-water locations are a better alternative to Cape Wind. The winds are stronger, the potential is greater and the risks are significantly lower.
Pete Russell believes we need windpower and that opposition is simply nimbyism (Letters, December 19).
He is wrong on both counts. As the contribution by wind increases to only a small proportion of total supply, it will cause serious stability problems
unless supported by online conventional generation.
E.ON Netz, the operator of the largest assemblage of wind turbines in Europe has specifically warned of this.
The talk in the local community is that five of the 12 turbines at Toora are now shut down because of equipment failure, the warrantee period has expired and they can't get parts. This wind farm is not particularly old and it's now limping along with a 42% reduction in power output. It's probably a good time to get this junk off the Toora hills.......
This mucking around with turbines all adds to the cost of something that is nothing more than a hoax, which would all be pretty funny if it wasn't subsidised by the public purse.
Be wary of individuals preaching the benefits while avoiding mention of ill effects from wind turbines. They probably are set to make a bundle off the things.
A staffer at the Helena-based Montana Environmental Information Center recently professed mystification over state energy policy.
“I don't know why we're not putting as much energy behind wind development as we are to coal development,” he said.
The answer is simple. Most people want the lights to come on when they flip the switch, and they don't want to go broke when they do.
In imagining the behavior of electricity, I like to use water as an analogy: Voltage is like the pressure in your pipes, in psi or Pascals or however you choose to measure it. Current is like the flow rate, in gallons or liters per minute, of water physically flowing through the pipe, and resistance is like friction, which slows the water down, so you have to work harder to push it through. A pipe can take only so much pressure or flow rate before it bursts, and a stream of water can take only so much friction before it stops flowing. So, to avoid the widespread chaos that a brownout would cause, our grid is designed the same way as the wiring in your house: with large numbers of fuses and circuit breakers, which cut off the flow of power when the current increases beyond a certain threshold.
Today, the United States imports oil at a rate of $400,000 a minute. It is estimated that by 2030, U.S. energy demands will increase by nearly two-thirds, and that by 2050, global energy demand will more than double. Americans must realize the necessity of finding a reliable energy supply in order to sustain economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century and to reduce the security, economic and political risks of our dependence on foreign oil......
Nuclear energy is the most promising source of power, and it is making a comeback. In recent months, Washington has been buzzing with talk about this subject.
Editor's Note This opinion piece was submitted to IWA in pdf form and is available in IWA's reference library via the link provided below.
Like most really thoughtful environmentally concerned scientists, I'd rather a tiny amount (in metric tonnes or cubic metres, after decades of use) of stored radioactive waste than the unmitigated disaster of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. And renewables are not realistically and politically going to fill the gap any time soon.