President Obama kicked off a five-state campaign swing yesterday with a stop at a "clean energy" plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. As it happens, Mr. Obama couldn't have chosen a better company to demonstrate the risks that taxpayers are taking with their billions in green stimulus investment.
Little noticed recently was a joint venture announcement by two U.S. industry giants: Babcock and Wilcox (B&W), which produces technology for nuclear-powered naval vessels, and Bechtel, one of the world's largest engineering firms. They intend to complete development of a small modular 125 MW nuclear reactor that could run for four to five years without refueling, like naval power plants.
As a result, one has produced a fuel cell that can turn natural gas or natural grass into electricity; the other has a technology that might make coal the cleanest, cheapest energy source by turning its carbon-dioxide emissions into bricks to build your next house. Though our country may be flagging, it's because of innovators like these that you should never - ever - write us off.
Vertical shaft turbines are safer, produce twice the energy of prop-style turbines
We've all seen the ads; a line of stately wind-turbines along the crest of a windswept hill, their slowly turning blades gently generating clean, abundant energy for a revitalized, green Earth. They look . . . peaceful. Noble. Benign.
How can something so innocent-looking be so deadly?
These days we read and hear more and more about the exponential increases in renewable energy, particularly large wind farms such as those sprouting up on Colorado's front range and eastern plains. Colorado's Amendment 37 requires the state's largest utility companies to produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. A subsequent legislative action doubled that to 20 percent by 2020. ...This is all great news, right? Not if you are an independent grid system operator, and not if you're expecting all of this large scale wind power to help reduce global warming carbon emissions.
Wind power is by nature a notoriously intermittent source of power. Wind simply doesn't blow steadily all of the time. Therefore, the power output of all large scale wind farms goes up and down dramatically throughout the day, regardless of the demand for power on the grid. ...Without energy diversity, the more renewable power we mandate, the more unreliable the grid will become. The laws of physics simply can't be amended.
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 southeastern Massachusetts.
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 South Coast, which has been referred to as the Saudi Arabia of wind energy because of its dependable North Atlantic winds. Rather than fight critics, Blue H has embraced their concerns and worked to satisfy them, maximizing the positives of the technology while minimizing the perceived negatives.
The solution? Locate the turbines out to sea on floating - but stabilized - platforms similar to oil rigs, far away from any people or animals.
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."
Any approach to determining economic policy for climate change should take into account the possibility that the current understanding of the atmosphere may not be translatable into reliable forecasts with a precision that allows the design of an economic response.
Further, any economic forecasts that are used to construct models of future carbon use and carbon dioxide emissions will be unable to deal with technical innovations. Their success cannot be predicted. This impacts on policy in two ways, first the obvious uncertainty in estimating economic development but more immediately the desire of governments to stimulate technical solutions. The need to be seen to be taking action frequently descends to picking winners and creating classes of rent seekers. ...As an example the present subsidies for wind farms are a response to demands for action from Green groups and green politicians. The result is a new rent seeking group. There is little cost benefit analysis to guide policy development. Rather policy is set to subsidise non-competitive technologies that may produce unquantified benefits. A simple comparison with the more conventional alternative of natural gas shows the use of gas to be more cost effective and useful as gas turbine generators produce electricity on demand.
General encouragement of innovation should be the limit of government policy. It is hard enough in business to develop innovations and well beyond the reach of general government.
Green is the new black--from Washington, D.C., to Silicon Valley.
But the lovefest with clean technology still has plenty of detractors who say that it's all just posturing, wishful thinking, or, worse, misguided.
Let's pull together a few threads from Friday morning's river of green tech news and see whether it adds up to anything.
For those of you in a hurry, here's my bottom line: No, America will not "get off oil" anytime soon as President Bush urged us this week, but yes, green tech matters a lot for the economy and the environment.
A 1 GW coal or nuclear base load plant needs less than 500 acres. An equivalent 1 GW base load wind power at U.S. average capacity of about 22 percent would require 45,000 acres, plus another 5,000 acres for transmission corridors. Wind turbines the size of the LDS Church Office Building would be required every 240 feet along I-15 and I-80, spanning the entire state. Unfortunately at this spacing, the 250-foot-diameter blades of each turbine would intersect each other.
The wind rush is on. Plans to erect sweeping wind farms are being unfurled at a rate of knots. But is this really clean green energy, or just another case of greedy corporates trashing our landscapes for profit? Anton Oliver argues it's about time New Zealanders woke up to the dark side of wind power.
This is a stiff wind turbine, and Kittery is in a low wind speed regime. The committee looked at the cost of the three turbines proposed and almost totally ignored if it would produce the power. Saco has a wind regime that is about 10-15 percent than higher than Kittery's wind. This turbine should be installed at 50 meters - another 35-plus feet higher than the permit calls for. ...A comparison of the three machines was provided in table format by Seacoast Consulting, but the most important piece of data on the three proposals - the cut on wind speed was not in the comparison. The committee chose the machine based solely on the cost.
If Kittery were purchasing a boat and a bid came in at a cost of $190,000 and the other came in at $210,000, and the seller of the two boats did not tell you that the first boat would not float but the second boat was sea worthy, it would be a poor choice to buy the cheaper boat. Kittery should do the same with a wind turbine. Buy a turbine that will turn - not one that will sit there for all but two-three months and not turn.
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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.
[P]urchasers of green energy will find that wind energy produced in Pennsylvania is much more expensive than wind produced in, say, Montana.
This mainly has to do with the location of wind resources. Montana has more areas with a higher sustained four wind than Pennsylvania. Also, since Montana is less densely populated, there are fewer troubles in siting the windfarms.
The drawback, obviously, is that Montana is very far away, and electricity grids lose power over long distances. However, some researchers in Europe claim to have found a solution: DC current.