Wind power gets bent out of shape in Wyoming

Trent Brome writes on his Facebook page:

Arlington, WY – avg annual wind speed of 31mph, gusts above 110mph, seems like a great place for a wind turbine ….right?

Photos from Feb 1, 2011 as the cold air mass that formed Snowzilla barreled through. The wind chill in the area from yesterday was extreme, -54F !!

0453 AM     EXTR WIND CHILL  PUMPKIN VINE            41.05N 105.46W
02/01/2011  M-54.00 F        ALBANY             WY   DEPT OF HIGHWAYS

A new record low was set in Cheyenne:

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHEYENNE WY
523 PM MST TUE FEB 01 2011

...RECORD DAILY LOW HIGH SET AT CHEYENNE WYOMING...

 A RECORD DAILY LOW HIGH WAS SET TODAY AT CHEYENNE WYOMING. THE OLD
RECORD WAS MINUS 5 SET IN 1899. THE NEW RECORD LOW HIGH IS MINUS 9.

Combine cold temperatures that make steel brittle along with gusty winds, and you have a Titanic recipe for disaster. For those that will argue that I’m being unfair to the promise of wind power, I welcome you to provide photos of any power plant in the USA that has been collapsed due to weather. Downed power poles sure, but power sources?

h/t to Eric Nielsen for the photo

=============================================================

UPDATE: While the Facebook page source of these photos shows them dated yesterday, Feb 1st, it appears the event actually happened November 25th. A similar photo here:

http://www.windaction.org/pictures/30961

The same author, Trent Brome, submitted them. It is unfortunate he did not make note of the correct date on his facebook page, and given a strong storm had just passed, I had no reason to expect otherwise. I apologize for not checking further. Thanks to V Marti for pointing out the other website link above. – Anthony

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208 Responses to Wind power gets bent out of shape in Wyoming

  1. Enthalpy says:

    It looks like “Ivory Tower” meets “Real World Data” in a snow storm

    apologies to Bambi and Godzilla!!

  2. silversurfer says:

    I suppose a hydroelectric rig could be down due to weather; drought – caused by global warming of course.

  3. Ed Mertin says:

    Might should take a look at this, this wind turbine collapse is probably not going to be the last.

    Press Release 1-2011 NASA Data Confirms Solar Hibernation and Climate Change to Cold Era

    http://www.spaceandscience.net/id16.html

    Also see (google up) ssrcresearchreport1-2010.doc

    Degree of correlation for global volcanic activity (>80.6%) and for the largest USA earthquakes (100% of the top 7 most powerful) vs solar activity lows…

    Last 350 years 1650-2009 for global volcanic activity and 300 years 1700-2009 for seismic (earthquake activity)

    ssrcresearchreport1-2010.doc I haven’t been able to capture a link with Droidx.

  4. Phillip Bratby says:

    This happens all the time, see http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/page4.htm

  5. Mike Haseler says:

    These are also fun!


  6. GSW says:

    My ignorance,

    What is a Record “Low High”? does it mean biggest (high) in magnitude for the Lowest temperature of the day?

    TIA

  7. Ecotretas says:

    A good collection of structural failures is available here:

    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/c48/

    Ecotretas

  8. Malaga View says:

    Once there was a silly old ram
    Thought he’d punch a hole in a fan
    No one could make that ram scram
    He kept buttin’ that fan
    ‘Cause he had hi-i-igh hopes, he had hi-i-igh hopes
    He had high apple pi-i-ie-in-the-sk-y-y hopes

    So, any time your feelin’ bad,
    ‘Stead of feelin’ sad,
    Just remember those fans
    Oops, there goes those kilowatt fans
    Oops, there goes those kilowatt fans
    Oops, there goes those kilowatt fans

  9. GSW says:

    Following on; Sorry, worked it out.

    The Warmest temperature for the day was -9c. So this was the lowest ‘Maximum’ temperature recorded. Apologies to All.

  10. Patrick Davis says:

    Just for the record, the Titanic was made with poor quality steel rivets with significant quantities of impurites which, in the very cold north Atlantic, “opened” like a zipper. The sheet hull plates were made from a different grade of steel. Like not having enough life rafts and davits, the cost saving using the cheaper rivet was the priority for the builder.

    Wonder what grade of steel was used in that tower, looks a bit thin at the base to me. But a classic example of too much wind. It’s usually the turbine and/or blades which fail first, but this is a classic fail!

  11. Hoser says:

    How much solar power did they generate with panels under 2+ feet of snow?

  12. William Gray says:

    This is the poster of the collapse of CAWG

  13. paulo says:

    A(nother) new record LOW temperature AND a downed wind turbine in one story. The one causing the other.

    This is pure denialist porn !

  14. Wayne Delbeke says:

    Shock and awe. /Sarc off. To be expected. Subsidized low cost products designed with an ideal environment in mind. In reality they need power inflow for heaters to keep this from happening which means that often wind turbines are net users of power instead of net producers – at least in Europe. What to you wanna bet they get a grant to study what went wrong and at least a couple of expense paid trips to Europe to see how it is done there?

  15. Greg Holmes says:

    Greetings, this is a shame , I am a great fan of these machines, I have 28 + on my doorstep in the UK and they are quite something upclose. There is however a nagging doubt in my mind that it is so difficult to get a handle on the efficiency of the “spinners” as I call them. I know that the wind does not blow every day, but I see figures bandied about of 20% EFFICIENCY EVEN WHEN CONDITIONS ARE PERFECT. Presumably there is a department in Government which is collating this sort of information but trying to find a cogent report without the attendant sub agenda is a trial. I think they are here to stay, I just do not want to keep paying tax money out to make them seem plausible.

  16. Jan says:

    In case someone missed this classic video of an exploding windmill:

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=8be_1203819244

  17. TinyCO2 says:

    Not in the USA and not recently but at least 4 cooling towers have collapsed in the UK due to wind and a design flaw. 3 towers at a powerstation called Ferry Bridge (1965) and the fourth at a sister station Fiddlers Ferry (1984). Other parts of power stations blow up from time to time but they’re mostly fixable/replaceable.

    http://www.knottingley.org/history/tales_and_events.htm

    That asside, both powerstations are still up and running (years after their decommissioning dates), the same will not be true of windmills. The biggest thing against windmills is the poor performance, unreliability of supply and the ones at sea will be a maintenance nightmare.

  18. Mike McMillan says:

    I know the feeling. I’ll add those two snapshots to my collection of wind turbine glamour shots.

    http://www.rockyhigh66.org/stuff/wind/

  19. Ed Zuiderwijk says:

    The green movement clearly could do with some Viagra ….

  20. John Kehr says:

    That is a very expensive problem. If the conditions were right for one tower to fail then it is likely that more than one collapsed. I have been unable to find any additional news about this particular incident.

    Solar is also very effective in a snowzilla storm like that. Gee.. I wonder what type of power would be effective for a long time and work even in bad weather…

  21. Brian Johnson uk says:

    Wind chill is really only relevant to living things that expire water through their skin, however it warms my heart to see those brittle/steely useless towers doing a Titanic.

    David Cameron please note; wind power is not of any use, except to assuage the Green Hysterics and your pal Zak. Spend the money on Thorium energy generation. Do it – Now!

  22. JohnH says:

    Met my neighbour on Monday, told him of the weather being wet and windy inc gales for next few days, his reply ‘Loads of extra work for me then’ , which as he maintains the local Wind turbines that have been marooned since the start of Nov does not make much sense.

  23. Peter Miller says:

    Also, it doesn’t look like a very good place for solar panels.

    Somewhere around -20 degrees C, steel begins losing its tensile strength. As the temperature drops further, it becomes increasingly brittle – mining companies in the far north learned about this fact the hard way a long time ago.

    One solution is to use stainless steel, which is much more temperature resistant – the problem here is that it costs several times the amount of ordinary steel.

    Green energy solutions are always very expensive and/or unreliable.

  24. a jones says:

    Yes well. Umm err. Quite.

    Not perhaps the finest engineering. And who is paying for the loss?

    Insured no doubt so who payed the premiums? and what was the rate percent?

    And can anybody get any answers? as regards the cash that is?

    Somehow I doubt it. And whose responsibility was it anyway?

    I think we should be told.

    We won’t be of course.

    Kindest Regards

  25. Tom says:

    Right, for those that live in the bit of the world that uses sane systems of units, that’s an average of about 13.5m/s, gusts to 50m/s, a record low of -22C and a wind chill of -47C.

    The extreme cold is indeed likely to be the culprit. On very little evidence, it looks like a weld failure around the top of the tower door, always a weak point in a tower structure. Not the first time a tower has collapsed due to weld failures in cold weather.

    There are basically three questions to ask: Was the temperature range specified in the tower requirements appropriate for the site? Was the tower design appropriate for that temperature range? Was the tower manufactured in accordance with the design? The answer to at least one of these questions is ‘No’.

    Painting this as a general problem with wind power is frankly pretty childish. That it is a problem is self-evident, but if you’re going to throw out wind power because a turbine fell over due to (likely) a manufacturing problem then you should also throw out nuclear power because there have been radiation leaks. I know which I’d rather live near! But of course we don’t throw out either; we learn from our mistakes. At least with wind the cleanup is quick and cheap.

  26. Nigel S says:

    Looks like a ductile rather than brittle failure of the tower. Maybe the windmill froze and didn’t feather so that loads exceeeded the design limit. The tower seems to have failed at 90 degrees to the axis of the shaft with the blades at 90 degrees to the wind. Maybe some oscillation involved too. Guess that door didn’t help either.

  27. John Marshall says:

    Oh for the reliability of coal or oil!

  28. Baa Humbug says:

    Some panel beating and a bit of pollyfilla and she’l be right mate.

  29. MostlyHarmless says:

    Score at half-time:

    Birds 1
    Wind Turbines – god only knows how many

    I used to be a great believer in “alternative energy” until these monstrosities began appearing, spoiling the view in in many of my favourite “wild places” here in the UK. It never struck me (as they do our avian wildlife) then just what a blight they are. I hate the damned things. I think I’ll use the second pic for my PC desktop. It gives me a little comfort and great satsifaction.

    We have Red Kites (http://www.redkites.co.uk) here in the southern Chiltern Hills, and I can see at least one over the valley here most days, soaring effortlessly. I’m not a “greenie”, but I’d hate to think of even one of these magnificent birds being shredded in the name of unreliable “renewable energy”.

  30. Myrrh says:

    The second – iconic pic for WUWT stuff?

  31. Stacey says:

    I would have thought that if you are constructing a steel structure which is subject to dynamic loads and where the temperatures are very low the structure should be subject to frost protection measures?

    The modes of failure for repetitive loads can be due to fatigue and where temperatures are low due to brittle fracture.

    In the Uk we have standing comittee on strutural failure this is one for them and if you have a similar organisation in the US please can someone notify them.

  32. R2 says:

    Wind Turbine suffers “erectile dysfunction”

  33. Most wind turbines go into neutral and stop generating at wind speeds above 35 mph, which means they’re probably non-productive for a large percentage of the time…

    I can’t wait to see the Blair Windfarms in the North Sea looking like this, or better yet, the ones defacing the Scottish Hills and the Welsh Mountains…

  34. Layne Blanchard says:

    Wizzy new Pius Hybrid – 28 Thousand Dollars
    Wizzy new windmill, with local utility contract of 14 cents/Kilowatt-hr to pay for it – 250 Thousand dollars
    Finding your new investment in a heap of twisted frozen metal? – … yep. Priceless.

  35. R. de Haan says:

    At least the windmill didn’t get air born. I love it.
    Nature doesn’t like wind power.

  36. zzz says:

    Every time I drive by a rotating wind turbine just off the local interstate, I am struck again by how unsafe it looks. What happens if the axle cracks or a blade breaks off in a strong wind? Nothing good …

  37. Matt says:

    Clearly these conditions werent engineered for, but the failure of one wind turbine adds nothing to the debate about GW in the same way the Chernobyl nuclear plant failure doesnt.

  38. Jarmo says:

    Would be interesting to know how many turbines have collapsed or shed blades in recent years.

  39. Tom Harley says:

    Wind power, hahahahaha…hahahaha, sorry, couldn’t help myself

  40. R Lawrence says:

    ‘Record daily low high’ -

    Stress-testing the language?

  41. Jeroen B. says:

    Mother Nature hates horizon pollution and has an icy cold way of dealing with it ;-)

  42. R. de Haan says:

    I wonder how the Australian wind farms are going to cope with 300 km per hour winds. A constant wind won’t pose a problem. The big gusts typical of a cold front passage do the work.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wind_farms_in_Queensland

  43. Sheumais says:

    -54F eh? Just think how cold it would have been without global warming…

  44. David says:

    Oh – I LOVE that picture..!!

  45. CPT. Charles says:

    One more nail in the coffin…

  46. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Please send copies of the photos to Joe “Rantin’ Joe” Romm c/o CAP in Washington, DC!

  47. the_Butcher says:

    And the cost to build that was?

  48. Will Nelson says:

    Yeah but, I hear those unanticipated and excessive deliveries of coal can shut a plant right down.

  49. Lew Skannen says:

    Hey! Give credit where it is due!
    Considering how brittle steel is at that temperature I think that the tower folded up quite well.

  50. Perry says:

    I suppose sildenafil citrate is out of the question, for resurrecting these derelict assemblages

  51. Frank Kotler says:

    If the cold made the steel brittle, how come it’s bent?

    Yo, ho, blow the man down. Arrrr!

    Best,
    Frank

  52. UK Sceptic says:

    Oops! Back to the drawingboard.

  53. Perry says:

    Or dis-assemblages ??

  54. richard verney says:

    This is a good example of some of the problems with these monsters. It is clear that these things are useless in cold conditions and unsuitable as an energy source for winter.

    I recently read a paper that suggested that one reason why these wind farms are not producing the level of output theoretically calculated (on a per windmill basis) is due to the windmills being spaced too closely together.

    I cannot remember the details but apparently as the wind passes accross one of these windmills it is either robbed of energy (the energy required to turn the windmill) and/or vortices are set up such that by the time the wind passes by the next windmill there is considerably less energy to impart into that windmill. As I say, I cannot recall the details but I seem to recall that the paper suggested that the windmills are being placed to near to each other and to optomise the output of each individual windmill they need to be placed apart by a factor of 2 in each direction; in other words each wind farm needs to cover 4 times the total area if it is to deliver anything approaching it’s theoretical output. This would greatly add to the expense and the eyesore of these farms. I guess that it is back to the design board.

  55. Moebius says:

    I have seen this one in denmark, but i dont know if the brakes failed too, or it could be the steel tower in this case ( we can see the crack in the photos)

  56. Dr. John Ware says:

    Surely this whole issue is overblown . . .

  57. brad says:

    Wow, one wing turbine feel over? What huge news. WUWT claimed one well exploding in the Gulf as minor, and that was much biggger than this, WUWT is all for nukes even after Chrnobyl and 3 Mile Island!

    This fair and balanced reporting is just great, and adds lots of cred to this site, it realy does!

    At least one cop died of a gunshot wound last night, should we halt all gun sales too?

    At least one car crashed last night should we stop all car sales?

    At least one person claimed AGW as real, should we stopp all carbon dioxide creation?

    Stupid article, pull it.

  58. brad says:

    How is .00000001% of the wind infrastructure failing news?

    I guess it is if the site is funded by the Koch brothers…

  59. SteveE says:

    It’s not a power plant, but the source of energy for power stations disrupted by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. Could have been a lot worst than a blow over wind turbine as we only know too well!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Horse_PDQ

  60. Dr T G Watkins says:

    What a wonderful monument to commemorate the collapse of cAGW.
    Send a copy to Chris Huhne, UK minister for energy, and his US equivalents.

  61. Chris Edwards says:

    I used to live in Cornwall,southern tip of England, a narrow peninsula in the atlaantic, whenthe winds were strong thy feather the blades to prevent damage, many times a year I saw that, they used concrete for the eyesores there.

  62. MattN says:

    I’m failing to see the brittleness. The steel seems like it was still very maleable. It wouldn’t have deformed like that if it wasn’t still maleable, it would have just snapped off clean. The ductile/brittle transition temp for common steels these days is way, way, WAY below zero. Near liquid-nitrogen temps.

    But I do get your point.

    MattN<—has a materials science degree…..

  63. Alan Bates says:

    And nobody thought of this at the design stage???
    It’s a known known problem, guys! Not a known unknown or an unknown unknown. This is Metallurgy/Materials 101.
    (Google steel brittle and cold is one of the suggestion, low temperature is another. Using cold gives over half a million hits.)

  64. etudiant says:

    While impressive, this kind of failure is rare in wind power.
    Still, the picture highlights the fragility of wind turbines very well.
    However, the weakest parts are inside the hub, the gears and bearings that allow the generator to turn.
    That is why wind turbines are so often still, even in good wind. They are simply broken.
    My guess, based on random observation, is that the mean time to failure for this technology is less than a year.

  65. Keith says:

    Catastrophic wind turbine failure is infrequent along with reliability statistics are not widely publicized for obvious reasons. Turbine failure, blade failure, tower collapse, and fires are all hazards associated with this technology.

    See statistics at: http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

  66. CPT. Charles says:

    Proof that one picture is worth a thousand words…

    http://www.investors.com/EditorialCartoons/Cartoon.aspx?id=561634

    One of the best summations of the dilemma being inflicted on us I’ve seen yet.

  67. JLawson says:

    Ow.

    That’ll take a lot longer and cost a heck of a lot more to replace than some downed power lines…

  68. randomengineer says:

    Is this an isolated incident (mfg QA went bad) or are all of the towers in the area down?

  69. Fred says:

    So that’s where old turbines go to die.

  70. Trust it did not crush any wandering polar bears

  71. Chris Wright says:

    It’s certainly amusing to see a wind turbine brought down by the wind!
    But of course the only ‘promise’ of wind power is huge energy bills and endless power cuts if – heaven forbid – wind power becomes a major power source (our UK government is aiming for about 30%, a completely mad fantasy).

    I would recommend this site:
    http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp_home.htm
    It gives the percentage wind power output for the entire UK (current, for the last 30 minutes and 24 hours, go to the table near the bottom).

    Today the 24 hour average is about 3%, but it is often a small fraction of 1%. On one occasion a few weeks ago, when we were suffering exceptionally cold and snowy conditions, the current value was zero percent (0.1% for the last 24 hours). For the entire UK, these pointless monsters were putting out something like 80 Mw, a tiny amount. And precisely at a time when we needed all the energy we could get for heating. Complete madness.
    Chris

  72. AndrewR says:

    I recall the early 1960s when ‘UK’ Ferrybridge ‘C’ cooling towers collapsed due to Wind
    On 1 November 1965, three of the cooling towers collapsed due to vibrations in 85 mph winds.
    http://wapedia.mobi/en/Ferrybridge_power_station

  73. Robert L says:

    By the look of it that was a compressive buckling failure – so all about the wind speed (or a spinning broken rotor imbalance), not cold making steel brittle.

  74. Ranger G says:

    I wonder how many others had the same fate in that area;
    Foote Creek I – 69 turbines
    Foote Creek II – 3 turbines
    Foote Creek III – 33 turbines
    Foote Creek IV – 28 turbines
    or was this just maybe a cow bumping into it too many times.

  75. tarpon says:

    And to think the California wind farm only wanted the PUC to allow it to charge a $1 a KWH … I wonder did that include batteries and replacement wind mills … And what about the birds whacked? Who pays for clean up.

    Snows mean global warming is going to kill us all, if we still have anything to eat.

  76. V Martin says:

    All part of the mix of reasons as to why these things are such a disaster and not a serious contributor to public electrical supply. There have actually been a significant number of failures of various types. Any idea as to how big this one was?

  77. Henry chance says:

    Too cold for wind generation. Transmission box problems and other problems stop the novelty. Of course the Hazmat problem now comes with the oil being spilled and soil contaminated.

  78. David C says:

    That bust windmill looks a bit like an upside down hockey stick.

  79. Sean Holt says:

    Just the one?

    Gee, that’s too bad! A travesty to be sure!

    What a waste of perfectly good resources…

    Building industrial wind turbines I mean!

    Sean.

  80. Dickens Goes Metro says:

    But at least the windmill is statistically robust!

  81. trbixler says:

    Just plug in my electric heater and …….. wait for the coal fired plant to be built. Maybe ask the Chinese if we could use one of their thorium plants. Go Obama and AGW!

  82. wws says:

    remember how Boone Pickens built all those wonderful windmills in Texas? This morning, across the state, we are being forced to sit through rolling blackouts (15 minutes at a time) because nobody predicted that the temp would drop so low this year, and that we would want to use so much power to stay warm when it did!

  83. Esko Polvi says:

    Looking at the pictures my metallurgical engineering mind tells me that the cause of failure is not brittleness but buckling due to too week shell to withstand the bending forces caused by the heavy wind.

  84. Frank K. says:

    To those who believe in wind power – please sell everything you own (house, car, etc.) and invest the proceeds in a wind farm. Safe, reliable, cheap…should recoup your investment in no time. Right?

    For the rest of us in the real world, we need to decide if we’re serious about nuclear power, since that will be one of our only alternatives for abundant, reliable power in the future.

    By the way, how do you recharge your electric vehicle when the power goes out…

  85. David says:

    Nearly 1000 accidents.
    73 fatalities.
    These on ONE group of windfarms, as per Keith’s link above.
    I wonder how this compares with, say, the same amount of generating capacity from fossil-fuels, over the same period..??
    I think its time we found this out, don’t you..?

  86. There are many grades of structural steel that have ductile-brittle transition temperatures below -54F. The photos indicate a possible weld failure. There are a number of heat affect zone problems that could have caused the failure. The low temperatures and high winds were only likely contributing factors.

  87. SteveE says:

    MostlyHarmless says:
    February 2, 2011 at 1:53 am
    Score at half-time:

    Birds 1
    Wind Turbines – god only knows how many

    I used to be a great believer in “alternative energy” until these monstrosities began appearing, spoiling the view in in many of my favourite “wild places” here in the UK. It never struck me (as they do our avian wildlife) then just what a blight they are. I hate the damned things. I think I’ll use the second pic for my PC desktop. It gives me a little comfort and great satsifaction.

    ————————

    I’m curious to know why you think that red kites manage to avoid all the buildings but somehow have a blind spot for wind turbines? I’d have thought that more Red kites are stuck by lorries on the M40 than wind turbine blades.

    I’d also hardly say the Didcot power station has improved the landscape around here, I’d perfer a wind farm to the sight of the giant cooling towers and the billowing steam cloulds any day of the week!

  88. mrpkw says:

    omegaman66 says:
    February 2, 2011 at 12:23 am

    So build it stronger don’t see this as a big issue. There are much bigger.
    ======================================================

    Sure, double or triple the over engineering for safety. What’s wasting a few more dollars on a known boondoggle?

  89. Ric Werme says:

    Brian Johnson uk says:
    February 2, 2011 at 1:23 am

    > Wind chill is really only relevant to living things that expire water through their skin, …

    “only” is wrong. Wind chill is a measurement of how quickly heat is lost through skin, and there isn’t much sweat to evaporate at cold temperatures. The test done to develop the current equation was done with heated surfaces, not moist surfaces. The windchill effect applies to anything that is heated. In this case, the tower wasn’t heated and the only significant temperature is the ambient air temp. Wind only contributed as a lateral force.

  90. Erik says:

    …but but who dunnit? – was it windmade™?
    —————————————————————————————-
    Groups launch wind power product label- “WindMade”

    “Electricity generated from renewable sources is often more EXPENSIVE ……..WE hope that this will create a strong element of CONSUMER PULL……said Ditlev Engel, VESTAS chief executive”
    ————————————————————————————–
    http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFLDE70G1IU20110117

    Windmade is a non-profit organisation….

  91. Mike Haseler says:

    V Martin says: February 2, 2011 at 5:20 am

    “All part of the mix of reasons as to why these things are such a disaster and not a serious contributor to public electrical supply. There have actually been a significant number of failures of various types. “

    Unfortunately, I used to be a bit of an expert in wind energy and to say “there have been a significant number of failures” is a complete understatement. In fact the main route of technology development in wind energy has been the need to overcome failure mechanisms particularly the gear box, but other things like the brakes are critical components.

    To try and put the problem in perspective, the average windmill blade travels approximately 1million miles/year – and it has to do so with minimal servicing! Compare that to the 5000 miles for a car, and you may begin to appreciate the problem. Surprisingly (for me) the key was the mass of oil in the gearbox and allowing sufficient time for the oil to loose entrapped air. Apparently when the stresses and strains of gusts and high speeds combine, the entrapped air can’t escape leaving dry spots which then lead to abrasion and thence quickly lead to destruction of the bearings (or that’s what I thought they said – my Danish wasn’t good enough for a technical conversation.) I still have one of these failed bearings as a paper weight to remind me!

    Originally the windmills used simple gearboxes (second hand lorry gearboxes), over the years these have become very complex and the expertise in this area was one of the key reasons the Danes were early leaders in this field.

    But catastrophic failures are not only nothing new, understanding them is the key to success in the wind industry (that and slick PR to con people over global warming … aka spin!)

    I used to have a windmill on our house for experimental purposes with control equipment, until I personally experienced the headache of a windmill “exploding”. These windmills were on a hill, and after one stormy night I went up the hill to find both windmills had shed their blades and even those these were toy ones (1m across), some blades had travelled over 50m. This together with the fact I was worried the vibration was going to cause structural damage to our house is why I took down the turbine from the roof and have advised against anyone fitting one to their own roof.

  92. KD says:

    I’d just like to say thanks for the laughs this morning. Had to get out of my all wheel drive twice this m

  93. David says:

    R de Haan (above) wonders about how wind farms in Queensland are going to stand up to the cuurent cyclone. With the help of his link, I identified this one, which I think is interesting:
    Windy Hill Wind Farm (wouldn’tcha know it..??)
    Location: Ravenshoe (that’s only about 10 miles from the coast – just south of Cairns)
    Cost: Get this – AUS$20M
    Capacity: 12MW (that’s theoretical capacity of course – equates to AUS$1.67M/MW..!!)
    Range: 13-25 metres/second – which seems extraordinarily narrow to me..!
    Well – let’s see how it gets on…

  94. beng says:

    Good thing coal, gas & nuke plants don’t get flattened by the wind….

  95. chemman says:

    Ed Zuiderwijk says:
    February 2, 2011 at 1:17 am

    That was cold. :)

  96. Pamela Gray says:

    Subsidized wind turbines must be cheaply built to justify their use as power generators. And therein lies the problem. Let us hope that the powers that be did not actually consider this as an asset and even engineer for its existence, so that a high repair rate would help build the green economy.

  97. noel says:

    .
    .
    Impotent impudence.
    .
    .

  98. Patrick Davis says:

    “brad says:
    February 2, 2011 at 3:31 am”

    Maybe you should have a chat to the French about nuclear power generation. They seem to have no issues what so ever with their nuclear plants. They even sell their surplus power to other EU countries.

    With your gun and car analogies, you forget the human stupidity factor. Should we ban human stupidity too?

  99. Mark Wagner says:

    FYI, rolling blackouts in Texas this morning. Apparently the wind isn’t blowing on the W TX windmills…

  100. beng says:

    Can we imagine what a “solar farm” would look like after a damaging windstorm? Better put spoilers on the edges of the panels.

  101. Jeff says:

    so Brad,

    you are right, the spill was much bigger … we have now stopped nearly all drilling for oil in the gulf and on the east coast of the US … we are all paying the price at the pump for not following the science …

    really, the Koch brothers ??? maybe you didn’t notice but the old “funded by big oil” meme has lost its punch …

  102. S Bleve says:

    Do these giants, pictured, just lay on the ground to rot? Must be plenty of work for the maintenance staff, with all of the pickups to run out to the site for ‘eval’, then the larger truck cranes etc for removal and eventual replacement that is a seven-wonder of traffic planning stop and go citizen auto interface movement of those long long propeller blades (some need a tillerman). Tehachapi 5000 unit one such transmission failed two years ago in neutral – free spin “Turbines get out of control when the gears become disengaged and there is no way to stop them. Mechanics have to wait until the wind dies down.” State Route 58 through Tehachapi a 4 lane freeway closed for 36 hrs. Fear that the giant blade (feathering mechanism malfunction) may break off at the spindle and come cartwheeling down the hill to hit some motorist. East and West bound traffic was diverted to that original old wagon road – now paved 2-lane not much wider than a 2 track cow-path stop-go for 1 hr to travel 5 miles. How many gallons of diesel gasoline were burned on that 5 miles/36hr? Some of the turns required cars to yield to the big commercial trucks.

    Charles F Brush (Ohio) built the first automatically operated wind turbine for electricity production. “Although James Blyth’s turbine was considered uneconomical in the United Kingdom electricity generation by wind turbines was more cost effective in countries with widely scattered populations” – this around 1900. And John Etheringtons book Wind Farm Scam, and what those in the electric wind industry in 19oo seemed to have discovered, must have been repudiated, look at the size of Tehacipi Farm.

  103. BenFromMO says:

    “Painting this as a general problem with wind power is frankly pretty childish. That it is a problem is self-evident, but if you’re going to throw out wind power because a turbine fell over due to (likely) a manufacturing problem then you should also throw out nuclear power because there have been radiation leaks. I know which I’d rather live near! But of course we don’t throw out either; we learn from our mistakes. At least with wind the cleanup is quick and cheap.”

    The migraine studies bother me, as I do get migraines at times, and for what its worth, I would rather not take the chance on that. I would much rather have a nuclear plant next door to me.

    In fact, I find nuclear power safer then being in a Kennedy car. More people have died in Kennedy cars then due to nuclear power in the US. Zero for nuclear power. Just a cheap joke really…but you get the point. And for the record, there are numerous accounts of failure on these monstrosities, they only produce 1/3 of their listed power under GOOD conditions, they cost too much money to generate the same power as nuclear, and above all else they kill birds and cause migraines. And of course over their life-times, the power they generate pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere then coal. This is because their assembly is so expensive in GHG’s that its just laughable to call this “green.”

    You seriously can not call yourself an environmentalist and still like wind power…its just not compatible in any way except that its what Al Gore (others) said was a good thing. Kind of like the biofuels episode…it is another green mistake that will be attempted to be forgotten as we continue on and the problems finally begin surfacing from the un-researched green agenda. Keep talking….reality can not be escaped, but if you want to live with dead birds and migraines, feel free, just don’t ask me to pay for the subsidies.

  104. richard verney says:

    Chris Wright’s observations at February 2, 2011 at 4:52 am are absolutely right. If there was any doubt as to the unsuitability of these windmills as a serious energy provider, it was dispelled in the winter 2009/10. I repeatedly monitored their performance and for a period of about 3 weeks, they never bettered 8% of their design performance and nearly always delivered no better than 1% of their designed performance! This experience should have taught the politicians that they are wholly inappropriate from an energy security poing of view. One would have thought that this would have let the politicians in 2010 to put a hold on further deployment of these windmills until issues of energy storage has been properly dealt with.
    Solar probably has no place in the UK since the UK is far too North and due to the angle of incidence, the power is weak. In winter this problem is exacerbated and of course the days are short. Windpower also is unreliable. Had the UK been dependent upon these sources for more than 30% of the generating capacity, we would have had to have rationed electrity and there would have been power cuts of at least 8 hours a day. Probably longer than that since some essential services (hospitals, railway lines and the like) would have had to have been prioritised such that for domestic users power cuts would probably have had to have been 10 to 12 hours per day.
    This is a serious problem since without electricity unless one has a log or coal fire, one is without heating. Gas or oil central heating wll not work without electrity (needed for electric ignition and circulating pumps). Potentially, there could have been hundreds of thousands even millions of deaths caused by the extreme cold conditions and the lack of heat. To mitigate this, there would have to have been mass evacuations from homes to schools and sports halls just so that people could be kept warm in some communal hall. Such evacuation would have been very difficult due to lack of grit and the poor condition of the roads etc.
    I do not know what civil emergency plans the government has to cope with such scenarios. But one cannot have an energy policy where hundereds of thousands of people are killed due to lack of energy security even if the winter of 2009/10 was a 1 in 30 winter. As we have seen from the winter 2010/11, the 1 in 30 year winter has been directly followed by 1 in 100 year winter! There is every prospect that we shall be in for more cold winters in the coming years.
    The politicians really need to analyse the true and real life delivery of energy by these wind farms, and to decide how they will cope should winter conditions of 2009/10 and/or 2010/11 be repeated.

    I noted from the site referred to by Keith at February 2, 2011 at 4:06 am, that there were 71 (or may be it was 73) fatalities caused by or incidentally by these windmills. That surprised me. They are not as friendly as they may be marketed. Of course, birds have it far worse.

  105. Craig Moore says:

    After looking at the pictures the only thing missing is the lit cigarette after having made love to Gaia.

  106. Just The Facts says:

    “Wind turbines make bat lungs explode”;
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14593

    and clip the wings and heads of birds:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtgBWNKwBkE&feature=related

    Wind power, as currently harvested, is not “green” energy…

  107. Mac the Knife says:

    “Combine cold temperatures that make steel brittle along with gusty winds, and you have a Titanic recipe for disaster. ”

    The structural failure shown does not appear to be a brittle fracture. The main mast shows massive plastic deformation (it is buckled and bent over horizontally), indicating ductile performance of the mast material and structural loads exceeding the material tensile strength. There is a tear (fracture) visible on the tension side of the failure but it does not extend around the majority of the diameter, which is more consistent with ductile rather than brittle fracture also.

    Only a macro and microscopic examination of the fracture surfaces could confirm this hypothesis, but from the evidence available, this is a ductile failure. Nothing visible indicates brittle failure.

    Nor is it comparable to the Titanic. The failed cantilevered beam structure in this case appears to be deliberately anchored to the ‘iceberg’! };>)

  108. John McDonald says:

    1. The massive wind farm I live next too does have A LOT of broken and otherwise out of service wind mills. While not a scientific survey I’d say about 1 to 2% breakdown permanently each year based on the gradual reduction of the total drop in energy production each year. And it only takes a causal look to see all the scrap metal all over the place on the grounds of the wind farm.
    2. In my opinion: The windmill bird killing stories are based in environmental bogus research. Prof. Smallwood makes a nice living hyping this story. I’ve never seen him or his team surveying our wind farm. The same wind farm that is his research is founded on. And I’ve never seen a bird killed by one. And we have tons of hawks, etc. living around the wind mills. And he claims many bird strike deaths during periods of near zero wind.
    3. The wind mills are beautiful. Lots of people stop and take pictures of them against the green hills this time of year. They make NO noise that you can hear from where you live. Because when the wind is blowing you have to be within 50 yards of them to hear them.
    4. Wind mills are NOT a solution AT ALL for energy independence. 6 months out of the year they barely move at all. So an entire full capacity energy system would have to be built for the idle time – which is crazy expensive. Right Now: No Wind. Ironically, they are building a natural gas power station right on the edge of the wind farm. The political powers already know wind is not the answer – they just make speeches about it for their less than intelligent green voters. Do I wish wind was the answer: OF COURSE but like the scientists of the 1800′s figured out: Wind could not even compete with Whale oil.
    5. One of the best roads in the USA is Old Patterson Pass road between Tracy and Livermore CA during this time of year. Absolutely awesome.

  109. Dave Springer says:

    Anyone care to take a wild guess about the number of wind turbines that have castrophically failed versus the number that have not had a problem?

    This is sort of like seeing pictures of homes destroyed by tornadoes or airliners that have crashed and burned. Those are newsworthy because they are rare. You don’t see headlines featuring homes that have not been destroyed by tornadoes or airliners that have not crashed. We all know that the number of homes that have never been destroyed by tornadoes and the number of airliners that have never crashed are in vastly greater number. Wind turbines that have failed versus those that haven’t failed are just like that.

    That said, wind turbines are a marginal niche. Think of them like hydro-power. They’re okay in places but the number of places where they can be installed and operated economically is very restricted. Hydropower is largely fully exploited and the cost of creating additional water impoundments is too expensive as fairly compensating land owers and homeowners for land and homes that must be abandoned.

    Don’t lose any sleep over wind turbines. What few locations are suitable will be utilized and when those locations are fully exploited it’ll become just like hydro-power installations only I don’t expect wind farms to ever overtake hydro-generation in the amount of power it contributes to the grid.

    Electricity isn’t the most pressing problem for the U.S. in any case. Liquid fuels refined from crude oil is the big problem. OPEC has us by the cajones and they can squeeze whenever they want as hard as they want. We need a new source of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. That won’t come from wind power, nuclear power, hydro-power, solar photo-voltaic, solar thermal, or turning cornstalks into ethanol. It can only come from turning sunlight and CO2 directly into liquid fuel by genetically engineered bacteria. There is already a corporation which obtained its first patent in the middle of last year on a photo-synthetic bacteria which uses municipal wastewater, CO2, and sunlight to directly produce diesel fuel. Not biodiesel but regular diesel. The pilot plant is being built in Leander, Texas about 20 miles from where I live and is located right next to Leander’s waste water treatment plant. This is great news because Leander has been fighting to get permission to dump their treated waste water, which still carries a high phosphorus nutrient load, into the Highland Lakes which are a string of impoundments of the Colorado River (not the same river as the one that flows through California and Nevada). The high nutrient load causes algae blooms and other unwanted damaging to our pristine lakes. So far the “environmentalists” have succeeded in keeping out additional municipal waste water discharges – the old grandfathered discharge permits still remain. The engineered organisms (cyanobacteria a.k.a. blue algae) being used to generate biofuels love that high nutrient wastewater. It’s a match made in heaven. Using nothing but sunlight, wastewater, and a few additional nutrients the pilot biofuel plant being built is expected to produce up to 30,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually at a price point equivalent to $30/bbl oil. Biofuels made by genetically engineered organisms in this manner should exert enough price pressure on traditional crude oil to drive the price back down to $30/bbl and keep it there. As the synthetic biology production improves through increasingly better engineered organisms, economy of scale, and refinement of processes it should drive crude oil price back down into the $15/bbl range and the price of a gallon of gasoline back under a dollar again.

    Check out the company. I’m very excited by it. I’d invest in it if I could but it’s still privately held. The IPO should be spectacular when it happens. I’d like to get a job at the pilot plant just to be a part of the next big technological revolution. I have a fair amount of experience in process control and factory automation which might be enough to get me on in a technical capacity helping improve the processes at the plant and keeping things running smoothly.

    http://www.jouleunlimited.com/

  110. Patrick Davis says:

    “SteveE says:
    February 2, 2011 at 5:58 am”

    Unless you are like my wife, who appears to have the ability to fall to sleep during an air raid, I beg to differ. Having lived within sight of “billowing colling towers” and the sight and noise of “wind farms”, I know which I prefer. I also know which will provide reliable baseload power when needed.

  111. Seamus Dubh says:

    Question does this type of failure occur with vertical type wind turbines?

  112. Dr. Lurtz says:

    Who cares! The repair monies are allocated from a separate budget!!

    What is important is how much power was generated moments before the failure.
    That power generation amount will be used to justify new windmills. It also proves that wind-power is fantastic…

  113. Douglas DC says:

    Cheap Chinese steel. Cheap Chinese cement. Cheap Chinese gearboxes.
    No wonder they fall over. Our local windfarm that we have in NE Oregon
    was down for most of a week-and it happens frequently, and we are cold
    here. 13F. I’d trade these things for a little nuke at the edge of town…

  114. Ray says:

    Some engineering work!?

    They should have filled a wall of reinforced concrete in this thing. Not only they get huge subsidies to built those things but they also cut short on material and engineering.

  115. Perry says:

    Sarcasm on. Right now wind is giving the UK 3% of its electricity. If I switch on my 1 Kw halogen heater, could I cause a brown out? Sarcasm off.

    http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp_home.htm

    Keith’s link should be kept current.

    http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

  116. Tom B says:

    Phillip Bratby says: February 2, 2011 at 12:35 am
    That’s disturbing. I used to live in Caithness. My wife was stationed at the small US Naval Communication Station by Thurso. I don’t want to envision that beautiful countryside blemished with these bird killers.

  117. Tom says:

    @BenFromMO:

    The migraine studies bother me, as I do get migraines at times, and for what its worth, I would rather not take the chance on that. I would much rather have a nuclear plant next door to me.

    Well, that’s a new one on me. Looks remarkably similar to mobile phones causing cancer to me, ie ‘research’. Haven’t looked at the details, though.

    As for your other, er, ‘claims’ – bird mortality? Hmmm. I’ve spent a lot of time on wind farms, and never actually seen a dead bird. The only research I’ve seen done on it came out at something like two birds killed per turbine per year – hardly a bird-shredder compared to, say, the average domestic window; they kill upwards of 100m birds a year in the US! Quick, ban them! Hmmm.

    Wind turbines are well known for producing around 1/3 of their rated power on average (I assume rated is what you mean by ‘listed’). This is known as the capacity factor, and I’m not sure why you’re upset about it? Unless you think we should be surprised that the wind doesn’t always blow at the same speed. That’s in average conditions, by the way; of course in good conditions they operate at their rated output.

    As for the claim that they have worse CO2 output than coal… erm… well… to be polite, can you cite a source for that? An average windmill being built today will generate the same energy as around 9000t of oil. If you really think that much energy goes into building one, your grasp of scale could use some work. (Assuming 2MW turbine, 30% capacity factor, 20 year life).

    Anyhow, I don’t call myself and environmentalist, I call myself an engineer. There are undeniable problems with wind; this brand of hysterics isn’t helping solve them.

  118. Coach Springer says:

    A Question: It taks a subsidy to erect a wind turbine. When it fails, does it take a subsidy to replace it? I’m thinking yes, this creates a corporate/government entitlement program in pursuit of a utopian fantasy.

  119. Justa Joe says:

    brad says:
    February 2, 2011 at 3:32 am
    How is .00000001% of the wind infrastructure failing news?
    ————————————————————

    You’re saying that there are 100 million wind turbines, and only one has suffered a catastrpophic failure? That sounds absurd. The internet is littered with images of these pieces of junk crashing and burning, and there aren’t 100 million that ever existed.

    Simply stating that this “one failure” is what is stupid. For example,If an automobile completely fell apart into a heap of twisted metal during ordinary operating conditions all of that model of car would be pulled from the roads immediately. Also since wind turbines are at absolute best suspect in terms of electrical generation performance. They are going to be subject to greater criticism when they start physically collapsing.

    Wind Turbines; unsafe and underachieving at any speed. Somehow I don’t think that Ralph Nader is going to mount a campaign to get them banned.

  120. SteveE says:

    richard verney says:
    February 2, 2011 at 7:16 am
    Chris Wright’s observations at February 2, 2011 at 4:52 am are absolutely right. If there was any doubt as to the unsuitability of these windmills as a serious energy provider, it was dispelled in the winter 2009/10. I repeatedly monitored their performance and for a period of about 3 weeks, they never bettered 8% of their design performance and nearly always delivered no better than 1% of their designed performance! This experience should have taught the politicians that they are wholly inappropriate from an energy security poing of view. One would have thought that this would have let the politicians in 2010 to put a hold on further deployment of these windmills until issues of energy storage has been properly dealt with.
    Solar probably has no place in the UK since the UK is far too North and due to the angle of incidence, the power is weak. In winter this problem is exacerbated and of course the days are short. Windpower also is unreliable. Had the UK been dependent upon these sources for more than 30% of the generating capacity, we would have had to have rationed electrity and there would have been power cuts of at least 8 hours a day. Probably longer than that since some essential services (hospitals, railway lines and the like) would have had to have been prioritised such that for domestic users power cuts would probably have had to have been 10 to 12 hours per day.
    This is a serious problem since without electricity unless one has a log or coal fire, one is without heating. Gas or oil central heating wll not work without electrity (needed for electric ignition and circulating pumps). Potentially, there could have been hundreds of thousands even millions of deaths caused by the extreme cold conditions and the lack of heat. To mitigate this, there would have to have been mass evacuations from homes to schools and sports halls just so that people could be kept warm in some communal hall. Such evacuation would have been very difficult due to lack of grit and the poor condition of the roads etc.
    I do not know what civil emergency plans the government has to cope with such scenarios. But one cannot have an energy policy where hundereds of thousands of people are killed due to lack of energy security even if the winter of 2009/10 was a 1 in 30 winter. As we have seen from the winter 2010/11, the 1 in 30 year winter has been directly followed by 1 in 100 year winter! There is every prospect that we shall be in for more cold winters in the coming years.
    The politicians really need to analyse the true and real life delivery of energy by these wind farms, and to decide how they will cope should winter conditions of 2009/10 and/or 2010/11 be repeated.

    I noted from the site referred to by Keith at February 2, 2011 at 4:06 am, that there were 71 (or may be it was 73) fatalities caused by or incidentally by these windmills. That surprised me. They are not as friendly as they may be marketed. Of course, birds have it far worse.

    —————————

    WOW! And people accuse the AGW groups of alarmist!

    It’s gone from 3 week observation of a wind farm during a quiet period in the winter to millions dying every year in the UK!

  121. Mike Haseler says:

    Seamus Dubh says: February 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Question does this type of failure occur with vertical type wind turbines?

    Seamus, in general terms, vertical axis wind turbines are less reliable than horizontal ones because a horizontal axis windmill always (almost) has the wind coming from the same direction whereas as a vertical axis windmill turns around the wind comes first from the front, then side, then back then side, resulting in a continuous back-forward stressing of the blades.

    However, it’s not exactly comparing apples with apples as vertical axis windmills have a very short tower if any. Moreover, with very big windmills, the shear size becomes a major obstacle as the force of gravity results in a side-to-side stress.

    More than likely the reason this windmill failed was because the brakes failed in high winds. A static windmill has fairly low wind resistance, but start turning the blades and there is an order of magnitude more stress – so the usual strategy is to stop the windmill dead in high winds … but if the brakes fail and it keeps turning you get these Katherine wheels, runaway rotation which eventually ends in some part of the blade going resulting a an unbalanced blade and these forces bend the tower.

  122. John Cooper says:

    Just an observation: that breach in the column doesn’t appear to be at the point of maximum stress which I *think* is about a third of the way up the column. Further, it appears to be about chest high, and in a perfectly straight line. Could this have been sabotage? Anybody with a pickup and a battery-powered grinder could have done it, I think. I’d be looking for tire tracks.

  123. Bernd Felsche says:

    Structural failure in wind turbine towers is not unusual.

    The characteristics of the loads imposed on the tower are not well defined at all. IME, it’s very difficult to get any useful information about the quasi-static and dynamic wind loading at the tower top; especially when one takes into account the turbine blade passing the tower. Structures tend to be built either very conservatively (expensive) or on a suck-it-and-see basis, taking into account only the quasi-static loads.

    There aren’t just lateral loads. The generator provides a torque reaction when generating; which fluctuates as each blade passes the tower. That torque goes through the tower as a bending moment at right angles to the principal bending moment due to the quasi-static wind load.

    The situation is exacerbated under heavy winds because the tower deflects and the weight of the massive generator and turbine blades becomes more eccentric. One doesn’t need to look to Euler buckling in the column … an analysis of the eccentric loads is equivalent in practice.

    The very-thin shell structures of many wind turbines are a result of trying to keep the tower as stiff as possible, to minimise deflection for a relatively small load. Unfortunately, it seems that the dynamic oscillating load of the turbine can excite modal vibrations in the shell which, when out of phase with the predominant bending moment, result in local buckling (and collapse) as the “flow” of loads becomes excessively eccentric to the material of the thin shell.

  124. gary gulrud says:

    Ed Mertin says:
    February 2, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Kinda of takes the edge off concerns of global hyperinflation and improving chances for world war out of the Holy lands.

    Anyone check near-earth asteroid transits?

  125. hotrod ( Larry L ) says:

    I went up to Arlington Wyo. a little over a year ago to get pictures of the wind farm. It is an impressive string of wind projects. That whole I-80 corridor is studded with similar wind farms. Those wind turbine towers are a lot bigger than they look without anything nearby to give scale. At the base you can just make out the access door which looks like a ship board hatch on the left side of the base just below the buckle.

    Not surprised they blew one down, I expect others will come down over time as the towers age and fatigue. All you need is winds that gust in resonance with the towers natural oscillation cycle and odds are it will buckle and fail.

    Larry

  126. Taphonomic says:

    Another unfavorable facet of wind mills and farms is leaving the decaying structures in place long after they have stopped working. South Point on the big island of Hawai’i is a very sceninc and windy place and has two wind farms. One old and decaying, the other new and producing. The website below has pictures of this and some other shut down renewable energy projects. When compared to the lifetime of of coal-fired, nuke, and hydroelectic plants; solar and wind don’t seem to last as long and don’t seem to require clean-up.

    http://webecoist.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

  127. Steve Fletcher says:

    Living in Laramie, WY I have seen the construction of the Foote Creek wind farm first hand, in fact I have toured the facility. The turbines at Foote Creek are what they call “Arctic Rated” and have a higher cut-out speed than the standard turbine of the same size. Unfortunately the higher wind speed does lead to higher metal fatigue.

    This happened on Nov 25th in case anyone cares to update the main story. I have pics from that day including the nacelle. Just email me mod.

    BTW it was -38F at the Laramie Airport this morning, tying the record set in 1951.

  128. mkelly says:

    richard verney says:
    February 2, 2011 at 7:16 am
    Chris Wright’s observations at February 2, 2011 at 4:52 am are absolutely right. If there was any doubt as to the unsuitability of these windmills as a serious energy provider, it was dispelled in the winter 2009/10.

    I concur.

    Wind is not a “serious energy provider” period. The basic problem with them is they have to be backed up. So they automatically “double” the price of electricity. Anytime a thing relies on a formula that has a variable that can got o zero then watchout cause zero is what you might get.

  129. Justa Joe says:

    SteveE says:
    February 2, 2011 at 5:58 am
    “…I’d perfer a wind farm to the sight of the giant cooling towers and the billowing steam cloulds any day of the week!”
    ————————————————-

    Different strokes for different folks, Too bad power generation isn’t a beauty contest then wind turbines might have chance.

    Wind power, All show and no go

  130. Max Hugoson says:

    “MattN says:
    February 2, 2011 at 3:51 am
    I’m failing to see the brittleness. The steel seems like it was still very maleable. It wouldn’t have deformed like that if it wasn’t still maleable, it would have just snapped off clean. The ductile/brittle transition temp for common steels these days is way, way, WAY below zero. Near liquid-nitrogen temps.

    But I do get your point.

    MattN<—has a materials science degree….."

    Matt: Second the concept. Not really NDT of -200 F however, more like -20 to -40 F for good quality structural steel. (More towards -20 F…but sometimes as high has 0 F.

    As you noted this is a BUCKLING FAILURE. Which translates to one thing, STRUCTURAL OVERLOAD.

    The other translation is: Not designed to handle all potential weather conditions. One of the problems here is "feathering"the blades for high winds. You can't just lock the turbine, you have to "feather" so that you minimize the cross sectional area.

    If this was done, then the DESIGN was not adequate for the cantilivered load.

    That's a design/enviromental interface problem. Since the ASME has WIND and SEISMIC criteria for various zones for DISTILLATION TOWERS, (which are equally high..) and we haven't had a lot of toppled distillation towers of the last 60 years…(ASME B&PV Code, Section VIII, non-fired pressure vessels), one has to wonder about this design criteria.

    If the blades were LOCKED and NOT FEATHERED or if the turbine was running and went into "overspeed" and did not lock/feather…this is an operational problem.

    YES, it does not give you a multi million $ contamination problem, as an accident at a nuclear plant (score – one in the US, Three Miles Island). However, if you are into some marginal financing, losing your $2,000,000 wind turbine, could make you "hurt", until you go to the public trough to pay for it.

    Max

  131. Hoser says:

    Wind farms require 80 acres per turbine, presumably because the owners recognize the potential consequences of failure (and fratricide) when pieces weighing tons fly 1/2 of a mile. One 100m turbine dominates that 80 acres. Imagine how many acres must be used to put a dent in actual energy demand?

    In California, you need 10,000 1.5 MW turnbines for 10% of power needs, given a generous 30% capacity factor. These would require 1250 square miles of land. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough land area in California with class 5+ winds. That means they have to be built in the ocean. That means along 500 miles of coastline, we will have 7 or so rows of turbines going 2.5 miles out to sea.

  132. steven mosher says:

    Dont even mention the damge done to the enviroment in china resulting from the production of magnets.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html

  133. Jim G says:

    MostlyHarmless says: February 2, 2011 at 1:53 amScore at half-time:
    ” Birds 1
    Wind Turbines – god only knows how many”

    We call them Eagle Choppers here in WY.

  134. UK Citizen says:

    Interestingly this lunchtime a colleague of mine at work said that he knew of a wind turbine snapping in high winds on Orkney (an island off the north coast of Scotland, a location of the UK where the government hope to build lots of wind turbines because the conditions are suppossed to be favourable…).

    So someone commented along the lines of Omegaman66 below:

    omegaman66 says:
    February 2, 2011 at 12:23 am
    So build it stronger don’t see this as a big issue. There are much bigger.

    The only problem was, went my engineer colleague, building them stronger, or even with a system which allowed the turbine to be lowered in high winds, would increase the cost of the turbine exponentially…. Making wind power even less competitive with good old fossil fuel power generation systems.

  135. No More Subsidies says:

    Man Can Not Engineer for ANY and ALL possible loads, only the assumed loads.

    Engineering ONLY provides for design within relatively narrow parameters.

    Mother Earth (natural forces) can ALWAYS exceed the design safety factor loads and failure results.

    There are no firePROOF, earthquakePROOF, windPROOF, or climatePROOF designs and constructs.

    The ‘what if scenarios’ either were not considered, were ignored, or were considered too expensive.

    Wind Energy Generation is fun as an academic exercise but should stand on its own without economic subsidies.

    Thanks for all of the links to other failures, I am not at all surprised.

  136. Leo says:

    I was surprised by the number of wind-power-related fatalities but, reading about them made me hearken back to a comment by Dr. Petr Beckman 35 years ago. He said that the erection of wind (and rooftop solar) instalations would lead to “carnage”. Prescient.

  137. Billy Liar says:

    Tom says:
    February 2, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Wind turbines are well known for producing around 1/3 of their rated power on average…

    That means 2/3 of the materials involved in making them are wasted. That’s not very sustainable is it? It’s like having 3 cars and only ever using one.

  138. JPeden says:

    Tom:

    …if you’re going to throw out wind power because a turbine fell over due to (likely) a manufacturing problem then you should also throw out nuclear power because there have been radiation leaks

    brad says:
    February 2, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Wow, one wing turbine feel over? What huge news. WUWT claimed one well exploding in the Gulf as minor, and that was much biggger than this, WUWT is all for nukes even after Chrnobyl and 3 Mile Island!

    This fair and balanced reporting is just great, and adds lots of cred to this site, it realy does!

    Of course the essential background condition is that nuclear and “fossil fuel” work, and we’ve also known for a while now that wind doesn’t. You guys should ask yourselves why you’ve missed this critical difference.

  139. Ed Mertin says:

    Found the link from where Tallbloke copied it when I posted it in tips & notes.
    http://www.spaceandscience.net/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/ ssrcresearchreport1-2010.doc …An independent review of historical records was performed for 350 years of global volcanic activity (1650-2009) and seismic (earthquake) activity for the past 300 years (1700 to 2009) within the continental United States and then compared to the Sun’s record of sunspots as a measure of solar activity. All three data sets were examined to determine whether a relationship existed between them and if the results of such a study could be used to develop methodology for identifying future geophysical events. The preliminary results from the study have shown that there exists a strong correlation between the solar activity that causes climate changes and the Earth’s largest seismic and volcanic events. The impressive degree of correlation for global volcanic activity (>80.6%) and for the largest USA earthquakes (100% of the top 7 most powerful) vs. solar activity lows provides a basis for future estimates of the time periods and magnitudes for the largest volcanic and seismic events many decades in advance. Finally, the coincidence of the Centennial and Bi-Centennial cycles of the RC Theory showed unmistakable relationships to these largest geophysical events…

  140. D Scott says:

    Electronic problem . Failure to automaticly feather the prop. aerodinamics did the rest.
    If this turbine was in a farm of 20 ,they lost 5% of production.

  141. geo says:

    I always enjoy the snow gates and “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” signs on them on I-80 while driving thru Wyoming. . .

  142. Jim O says:

    Question: does the poster know if this was a recent collapse? A tower collapsed in the Arlington area on Thanksgiving Day. Is this a photograph of that event or a second one?

  143. Paddy says:

    Tom: Very little electricity is made using oil fuels. A comparison of coal or natural gas consumption with turbine output is relevant, oil is not. But, this comparison is meaningless unless the quantity of fuel and cost of necessary backup or standby capacity is included. Perhaps you can share your insight with us after including these additional costs.

  144. AndrewWH says:

    I too am surprised that the point of failure is so low to the ground. Would a gearbox seizure produce sufficient torque at that point to topple the tower or would it be higher up?
    Are wind turbines (or as I call them Money Spinners) built with earthquake protection?
    Are the blades gunshot-proof? “Road signs are boring, bet you can’t hit one of the blades of that”? Do they do that in Wyoming? Is the whole shooting at roadsigns thing a Hollywood myth?
    Inquiring Brits want to know!

  145. R. Shearer says:

    Looks like a case of WED (Windmill Erection Dysfunction).

    [moderator comment award winner +++$$$+++]

  146. homo sapiens says:

    SteveE says: It’s gone from 3 week observation of a wind farm during a quiet period in the winter to millions dying every year in the UK!

    I don’t know where SteveE got the “millions” from. But it only takes a few days of no heating to kill off thousands of vulnerable (very old and very young) people.

    Windturbines frequently fail to produce any electricity on the coldest days of winter as these occur predominantly during windless anticyclonic periods.

    Here in the UK we have a lunatic (Chris Huhne) in charge of energy policy.

    In ten to twelve years time several coal-fired power stations will have been closed down under EC emissions regulations, and most of our nuclear installations will have come to the end of their lives. These plants currently supply 40 per cent of our needs.
    If we can hope to build enough wind turbines to provide, say, 25 per cent of our electricity (10 times the current proportion needing at least 10,000 turbines) the cost will be well over £80 billion, plus another £40 billion to connect them up to the grid. Even then we we will still have a generating shortfall of 40% during periods of extreme cold such as those of last December, which will mean power cuts on a scale never before experienced in this country! All central heating systems require mains electricity to function, so there will be thousands if not tens of thousands of deaths from hypothermia. Yet for £30 billion we could have ten clean modern super efficient nuclear power stations.

  147. 1DandyTroll says:

    So the leetle wind mill couldn’t stand against a little wind when suffering a common cold.

    Last thought of a wind mill: Geez the cold, the wind, OMG but what wouldn’t I’ve given for a don Quijote instead?

  148. Ralph says:

    One presumes that they did not calculate for the extra weight of snow on the blades; and the extra drag that snow causes on the blades, which translates into extra force on the pylon.

    .

  149. Scarface says:

    OMG This thing simply melted!!!!
    So, HOT is COLD q.e.d.

  150. Billy Liar says:

    No-one has mentioned ice on the blades. This can cause imbalance in the rotor due to uneven shedding of the ice which would certainly be enough to cause high oscillatory loads at the hub.

    Freezing rain would be as disastrous for windmills as it is for aircraft and helicopters. Are windmills designed to cope with this?

  151. Jack Simmons says:

    Ran into a gentleman who was part of a careful study of alternative energy sources up in Cheyenne Wyoming on the Warren AFB.

    You guessed it: wind don’t work. It’s expensive and unreliable.

    Kind of funny to see an institution built to fight WW III having a green initiative for energy.

    It would be funny to see a delay in the launch sequence for nuclear missiles because the wind wasn’t blowing just right.

  152. Freddy T says:

    I’m sure oil drilling rigs have also failed due to weather. Especially offshore rigs due to waves, hurricanes, et cetera. And there must have been a few lightning strikes that set the oil on fire…

  153. Vince Causey says:

    Tom,

    “As for the claim that they have worse CO2 output than coal… erm… well… to be polite, can you cite a source for that? An average windmill being built today will generate the same energy as around 9000t of oil.”

    Wind farms have to be backed up Tom, if they are to provide more than an insignificant amount of power. That means gas fired power stations on spinning back up. That’s the rub – the killer punch. Most articles I’ve read by intependant engineers (as opposed to wind industry lobby groups) say that windfarms make little or no improvement to co2 emissions. And if the spinning backup comes from coal, the improvement is actually negative.

  154. richard verney says:

    SteveE at February 2, 2011 at 8:50 am suggests that I am exagerating the consences of being dependent upon windpower for 30% or more of total electricity generation. As noted, I monitored the daily generation of windfarms in December 2009 and January 2010. For a period of 3 weeks these windfarms were producing no more than 8% of their rated output and in the main nearer only 1% to 3%. Probably during this period, they produced little if any net contribution to the national grid given that power is required to heat and turn the rotors when there is no wind and extreme cold. If, in 2009/10, the UK had been reliant for 30% of its energy needs on windpower, we would have had around a 30% shortfall in energy leading to extreme power rationing. In fact, for the better part of a 6 week period except for a few odd days here and there, they were not generating anything remotely approaching their designed criteria but I am only focusing on the 3 week spell when we had a blocking high weather front sitting almost directly over the UK..

    According to figures compiled by the Office of National Statistics, in the winter of 2008/9 there were some 36,700 more deaths compared to summer months and 12,000 more deaths than the winter average for the previous decade. This was due to the cold weather conditions encountered during the winter of 2008/9 and in particular old people being unable to properly heat their homes (due to the expense of fuel). See for example:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1230650/Fuel-firms-facing-criticism-number-winter-deaths-reaches-highest-level-decade.html

    The fact is that in the UK, we have an aging population and much poor quality housing stock. A lot of homes are old, draughty, damp and not well insulated. Old people are particularly vulnerable especially to cold conditions which have a lot of knock on effects. I am not talking merely about hypothermia but point out that many illnesses are exacerbated by the cold, and of course these cold conditions can lead directly to flu and pneumonia which are huge killers in old people.

    In the UK we have for some time had an extremely poor record with respect to winter deaths. See for example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1754561.stm wherein it is observed that the UK has the worst record in Europe for winter deaths. This is no doubt partly due to the dampness of our climate and the poor quality of housing stock and probably also the poverty of old people.

    The winter of 2008/9 was a cold winter but there were no power cuts and yet it led to an additional 12,000 deaths (over and above the 1998/2007 winter average). Now imagine the situation where we have equally or more cold conditions and homes are without electricity and heating for say 8 to 10 hours a day for a continuous period of 3 weeks (or slightly more). It is easy to see how that figure of an extra 12,000 deaths would sky rocket. The majority of old people may cope with power cuts for 2 or 3 days but not for a continuous period of 21 or more days. This would have a drastic effect on their health. I do not consider that it is any exaggeration to say that in these circumstances, potentially, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of extra deaths.

    You may argue that people in the past survived without electricity. Well that is true but no doubt mortality rates (as a percentage) were high 80 to 100 years ago. One problem is that conditions are very different to say the 1930s and 40s. In this period, houses were heated by coal and this was delivered direct to the door. Indeed, many houses had cellars which contained coal bunkers (nowadays these cellars have been converted into basement flats). Accordingly, to get some coal often one only had to venture down the stairs to the cellar. People no longer live like this. Indeed in many homes the fire places have been removed or boarded up. More than 99% of homes are reliant upon electricity for heating because electricity is required to run all forms of central heating. The reality is that nowadays, old people would not be well prepared for a cold winter and would not be able to withstand the effects of deep power cuts for prolonged periods.

    Wind power is simply incapable of providing energy security. This is blatantly obvious and this hair brained scheme should be dropped forthwith. The UK like all other countries requires reliable energy produced as cheaply as possible.

  155. It is ironic that a man-made device designed solely to harvest the power of the wind cannot stand up to the wind. Meanwhile, down in Texas, home to the largest collection of wind turbines in all 50 States, there are rolling blackouts, because there isn’t enough power. It’s laughable.

    Get the facts on this unreliable, undispatchable, unsustainable source of power at
    http://www.windpowerfraud.com.

  156. Laurence M. Sheehan, PE says:

    Back along about 1979-1980, any number of wind turbines were constructed in the Palm Springs, CA area. 50% tax credit, i.e., the state paid half. Within 1 year, most were no longer turning. These things have seals, bearings and gears, thus need preventive maintenance. The less high ones are exposed to lots of particulate matter, which means more frequent seal replacement, but even the really tall ones will also need seal replacement.

    Modern wind turbines generate huge amounts of noise, which translates to lots of significant vibration, which translates to lots of mechanical failure.

    These things are but hugely expensive follies.

    The same is true of all solar devices. No one knows just how long any will last in actual use, or what maintenance costs will be, except that maintenance will be very costly. Even if amortized at a low rate of interest, over as long as 50 years, the cost per KW hour is many times the cost of natural gas, let alone coal.

    It is way past the time that sound engineering economics were applied. The actual costs per KW hour would be seen to be horrendous over time if that were done, and affordable only for the wealthy.

    And all on account of a trace gas in the atmosphere which is insignificant as far as the temperature of the atmosphere is concerned.

  157. Larry in Texas says:

    We’ve had at least two rolling blackouts here in Texas today. The grid administrator, ERCOT, has declared a power emergency, citing reduced generation capacity due to the cold weather. Something about some coal plants having water main breaks. Ha! I suspect the wind turbines in West Texas that almost caused us havoc last summer probably went haywire with the high winds that have been blowing the last two days. In any event, the fact that the Federal government has been hampering the construction of new electrical generation facilities (nuclear and coal) is my opinion part of the reason for today’s blackouts. And, I fear, more will be on the way in the future.

    This is a matter I will look into further as things get back to normal.

  158. Mark Miller says:

    I wonder if the owner of the crumpled windmill had insurance to cover the wather related loss of the asset. This particular wind mill will not be supplying any electricity to the grid in the future. The subject of power intermittency was discussed at the recent VerdeXchange 2011 meeting
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/from-a-utilitys-gordian-knot-to-a-policy-makers-blueprint/

    “SCE’s Michael Hertel described what he called a Gordian knot. AB 32, California’s nation-leading greenhouse gas emissions reductions law, and the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), requiring state utilities to obtain one-third of their power from renewable sources by 2020, will not only drive the growth of renewables capacity, Hertel said, but also necessitate new natural gas-burning power plants or result in serious power supply problems.”

    “Renewable power is incredibly intermittent,” Hertel said, referencing the utilities’ notorious discomfort with the variability of solar energy and wind power. He showed a graph of rising and falling wind power generation in the wind-rich Tehachapi region and another graph of solar energy variation over a twenty-four-hour period.
    “As the power fluctuates, during the day or seasonally, you have to have load following generation to fill in the gaps,” Hertel said. Load following is dictated by regional and local regulation and has to be able to generate as much power as is needed without hesitation.

    “The only thing we have that will work fast right now is natural gas-fired thermal capacity,” Hertel explained. Due to transmission system complexities, the new natural gas generating capacity must be built locally. But local air quality regulations prohibit that”

    There is a focus currently in CA to address the intermittent nature of wind and solar with energy storage

  159. Feet2theFire says:

    @John Kewhr says:

    Gee.. I wonder what type of power would be effective for a long time and work even in bad weather…

    I nominate the Chinese and their Thorium MSR reactors.

  160. Dave Springer says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Gorgonio_Pass_Wind_Farm#History_and_governance

    This began to be built in the early 1980′s. I drove past it many times from the very beginning heading out to recreational areas in the desert like Joshua Tree National Monument and/or the Colorado River in Arizona. A tiny percentage of them are stopped at any one time presumably down for maintenance but I never saw one with any obvious damage. Currently there are over 3000 units in this windfarm reliably cranking out 615 megawatts.

    I don’t know where they’re building all of them in Texas but I occasionally see a blade on a flatbed truck on its way to somewhere. Texas has installed capacity of nearly 10 gigawatts, 3 times as much as the next closest state (Iowa). Texas isn’t into stupid environmental crap, there isn’t a single statewide office not held by a Republican, we have all major kinds of electrical generation, no lack of fossil fuels, we sued the EPA to prevent CO2 regulation under the Clean Air Act, our budget is balanced, and you’d hardly know there’s a recession going on here. We have all kinds of electrical generation here. What’s delivered to my home is a mix of nuclear, natural gas, and hydro-electric all of which are within a half-hour’s drive with a major hydro-electric generator about 10 minutes away by boat. Bet your bottom dollar that if Texas has that much wind turbine generation that it is practical and profitable.

  161. Ryan Brown says:

    I’m sure no-one will read this, but I have to correct you anyways. 2 coal power plants in Texas were taken out in the weather today causing rolling blackouts. Why is the weather to blame you ask? Frozen pipes. Not one, but 2 power sources. Granted they weren’t *destroyed* but they were rendered unusable for long enough to cause huge amounts of trouble statewide.

  162. Barry says:

    To Tom

    A couple of pieces of information. Wind Turbine emit ultra low frequency waves from the pressure of the blades passing in front of the tower. Some people within a mile have real problems with this…like sea sickness doesn’t affect everyone. ULF waves have been identified as have real affect on part of the brain. They research these as a weapon over long distances. So the person worrying about migraines is completely justified. I personally know two sets of people all positive about industrial wind turbines…well that is till they built them a couple thousand feet from their houses. The sound emits out and not down under the tower so don’t give I don’t hear anything when I am under them.
    Concerning birds….wind turbines do kill thousands of raptors a year many federally protected. Operators Altamont, CA has an out of court settlement with the Audubon Society right now to take down lots of turbines because they are killing eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, etc. If a location such as where you work doesn’t have these birds then obviously they aren’t going to be harmed. Norway is having a real problem with lots and lots of Sea Eagles dying. NJ with only 5 turbines killed one of only 26 protected peregrine falcons in the first years…wait till the years roll by with thousands of these turbines.
    Most onshore industrial wind turbines would be lucky to have a capacity factor of 30% many are 15% and they tend not be working when peak electricity is needed. That is called Capacity Value which wind turbines have a value of ZERO. Capacity Vlue is the likely hood you can turn it on when you need it. Unlike a nat gas or nuke plant which are near 100%.
    I won’t get into the general harm of thousands of miles of wires and industrial space that these turbines create. Many eastern states are destroying their last open space for these industrial turbines which require mile upon mile to just general a fraction of one small nat. gas plant. Most of these turbines are tax/rate payers grabs or from artificial target created by political who many times turn around and jump over to the wind energy company once they are out of office. See Gov of Maine Baldacci who signed the law and then sucked up the tax and rate payer money…some while in office!

    Who is responsible to take these down once the joke is over?

  163. Kum Dollison says:

    Southern California Edison has selected 250 MW worth of solar bids from companies able to produce solar electricity for 20 years for less money annually than the 20 year levelized cost of energy of a combined-cycle natural gas turbine power plant.

    Southern California Edison buys 20 years of Solar for less than the levelized cost of nat gas:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/01/sce-buys-20-years-of-solar-power-for-less-than-natural-gas/

    They could have purchased ten times as much if they’d wished.

    We seem to be looking at something under $0.11 kwh.

  164. Roger Knights says:

    Matt says:
    February 2, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Clearly these conditions werent engineered for, but the failure of one wind turbine adds nothing to the debate about GW in the same way the Chernobyl nuclear plant failure doesnt.

    Not exactly. Chernobyl wasn’t built or operated according to best-practice standards; this windmill presumably was.

  165. otter17 says:

    “Combine cold temperatures that make steel brittle along with gusty winds, and you have a Titanic recipe for disaster. For those that will argue that I’m being unfair to the promise of wind power, I welcome you to provide photos of any power plant in the USA that has been collapsed due to weather. Downed power poles sure, but power sources?”

    Yeah, you are being unfair to wind’s potential. The first link is a partial collapse of a power plant in the USA during a flood. I believe it was a fuel oil powered plant. Wind turbines could potentially be resistant to flood damage, with proper design.
    http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~neredwil/35flood.htm
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/02/100226-water-energy-climate-change-dams-nuclear/

    Plus, for a fair comparison, one would include the entire power source stream from extraction to power production. Over the years, floods have put coal mines out of commission for stretches at a time. I’m sure natural gas and oil drilling platforms have been demolished by inclement weather in the past. I’m sure that coal barges and trains have been disrupted by inclement weather, as well as natural gas and oil pipelines. These supply disruptions are mitigated by having reserves available within the supply chain. In the same way, renewable energy reserves can be utilized via a well-connected grid and pumped storage technologies. Where one turbine or even a dozen fall, they can be supplanted with excess capacity from another point in the grid while repairs are made. Some of this redundancy is built into the grid already. For example, all power plants need maintenance or experience failures, and when one is down, the others fill in the gaps.

    In addition, fossil fuel extraction and power production can experience large-scale failures and risks. Wind power failures are generally localized.
    http://www.usmra.com/saxsewell/historical.htm
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/02/07/us-energy-explosion-idUSTRE61619Q20100207
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston_Fossil_Plant_coal_fly_ash_slurry_spill

    Plus there are the public health concerns, earthquake damage, water supply usage, inequitable distributions of resources, excessive gov’t subsidies, environmental concerns and the fact that the resources won’t last forever.

    Hey, I could go on, but the point is that different power sources have strengths and weaknesses. Since fossil fuel power plants are housed in buildings, they can be hardened to withstand heavy weather. Wind turbine towers are structures that are a bit more susceptible to heavy winds. Engineers can figure out how to deal with harsh environmental extremes. I’m sure somebody has learned from this particular turbine failure experience.

    So, fossil fuels have gotten us this far, and they have done great things for people. Nevertheless, they won’t last forever. Why not get some investment and experience going with extracting and using renewables now so people don’t have to worry about digging around frantically for resources by 2150 (or whenever fossil fuel reserves run low)?

    These are fair and comprehensive analyses of wind power, with references to experts.
    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy08osti/41869.pdf

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO3V2uXTM6k

  166. jorgekafkazar says:

    Is this a contest to see how many people can post videos of that same windmill going KaBlooey? Boring. Come back with a video of a wind turbine chucking a 10-foot blade through a $250,000 solar array a half mile away. That’s what I want to watch.

    To Nigel S: I think you’re absolutely correct. I suspect turbine blade failure, followed by severe lateral vibration and torquing. The door may not have been adequately designed for torquing load. In any case, vibration switches could have prevented tower failure.

    But the weak link in wind power isn’t the blades or the turbine or the tower. It’s the subsidies that enable building them. Engineers can solve all the problems but that one.

  167. Dave Springer says:

    Coach Springer says:
    February 2, 2011 at 8:26 am

    “A Question: It taks a subsidy to erect a wind turbine. When it fails, does it take a subsidy to replace it? I’m thinking yes, this creates a corporate/government entitlement program in pursuit of a utopian fantasy.”

    All electrical generation gets subsidized to encourage growth in total capacity. Typically it’s in the form of tax incentives. Wind subsidies in the US are much smaller than nuclear subsidies and nuclear is much smaller than ethanol subsidies although ethanol and electricity aren’t really in the same category. Ethanol subsidies are the only ones ill-considered and significant in size AFAIC. Total state of Texas subsidies given to wind generation is less than $3 million. Agricultural subsidies are closer to $3 billion as a point of comparison. A larger source of “green” sourced electrical subsidies is voluntary contributions by consumers. You can choose to purchase “green” electricity from your electric company in Texas and pay modest premium for it. There’s more demand for green electricity than there is green electricity to be sold so consumers wanting to go green still end up purchasing non-green when the green source is exhausted.

    http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/

  168. Tim Folkerts says:

    “Downed power poles sure, but power sources?”

    OK, these are not all “collapses”, but weather often causes major damage to any number of facilities, including energy-related facilities. Bad luck/bad design/bad construction affects just about anything people build. Brief search turned up many examples ….

    AURORA, Colo. — Frigid weather shut down an Aurora power plant Tuesday morning when a malfunctioning fire-suppression system sprayed water on transformers, triggering sparks, an Xcel Energy spokesman said. “It is definitely weather-related,”
    —————
    Rita caused significant damage offshore including:
    * 66 platforms destroyed, with 32 more suffering extensive damage.
    * 13 MODUs broke their moorings and were set adrift.
    * 1 jackup rig was sunk, with 7 jack-ups and 2 semi-subs experiencing extensive damage.
    ——————-
    Power Plant Suffers Serious Storm Damage
    The Sunflower Station power plant in Holcomb [KS] suffered what is expected to be more than $1 million in damages.
    http://media.graytvinc.com/images/cooling+tower+small.jpg
    ————–
    A fierce tornado damaged one of six critical cooling towers at an Oklahoma power station. The loss of the 115,000 GPM tower was severely limiting power generation.
    ——————
    On the 1st November 1965, during high winds, three out of a group of eight cooling towers at Ferrybridge ‘C’ Power Station collapsed, with the remaining towers sustaining severe structural damage.
    http://www.knottingley.org/images/towers1.jpg

  169. jorgekafkazar says:

    Barry says: “Who is responsible to take these down once the joke is over?”

    The wind power company. Here’s a clause from a typical wind farm lease:

    “Site Clearance and Restoration: …Within twelve months after termination of this Lease in accordance with Paragraph 7.2, above, Lessee shall remove all Wind Farm equipment and material to a depth of 48 inches and shall restore the land to essentially the same condition it was in as of the Initiation Date, including returning the land to substantially the same contours and elevations…” There’s more, but that’s the answer to your question.

  170. _Jim says:

    wws February 2, 2011 at 5:36 am

    remember how Boone Pickens built all those wonderful windmills in Texas? This morning, across the state, we are being forced to sit through rolling blackouts (15 minutes at a time) because nobody predicted that the temp would drop so low this year, and that we would want to use so much power to stay warm when it did!

    Correction please; we lost a couple generation units (Oak Grove and Sand Hill generation plants ) plus nat. gas pipleline pressures dropped and gas peakers would have been problematic … so we lost about 10% of generating capacity according to the experts:

    http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local-beat/Power-Grid-Taxed-Rolling-Blackouts-Ordered-115093224.html

    Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of service designed to ease the load on the electric grid.

    “Without this safety valve, generators would overload and begin shutting down to avoid damage, risking a domino effect of a statewide outage,” ERCOT said.

    ERCOT said the outages were necessary because of a shortage of available power after some plants were knocked offline because of broken water pipes at the Oak Grove and Sand Hill plants.

    Natural gas power plants that should have provided back up had difficulty starting because to low pressure in the supply lines that was also caused by the cold weather.

    People in residences were mentioning the low gas pressures: http://www.allenonline.com/fusionbb/showpost.php?post/125087/

    … and not that T. Boone’s plans had inherent any problems …

    .

  171. Rich Lambert says:

    Looks to me like the blade control system malfunctioned since the blade angle is flat (perpendicular to the wind). This would result in very high windmill rotational speed and drag causing the tower to fail in very high winds. The tower failure doesn’t look to be a brittle failure.

  172. Mark C says:

    The first thing I thought of when I saw the pics was that it looked a bit like an Imperial Walker face down in the snow on Hoth after Luke Skywalker got through with it, rather than T. Boone needing to see a doctor about some ED treatments for his bird choppers.

  173. _Jim says:

    What really happened – Terry Hadley of the Texas PUC and the ONCOR rolling blackouts:

    ERCOT is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, not to be confused with FERC http://www.ferc.gov/

    Electric Power Markets: Texas (ERCOT) – http://www.ferc.gov/market-oversight/mkt-electric/texas.asp

    .

  174. Dave Springer says:

    Charles S. Opalek, PE says:
    February 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    “It is ironic that a man-made device designed solely to harvest the power of the wind cannot stand up to the wind. Meanwhile, down in Texas, home to the largest collection of wind turbines in all 50 States, there are rolling blackouts, because there isn’t enough power. It’s laughable.”

    What’s laughable is your comment. Today was only the second rolling blackout in Texas in 20 years. The first happened due to record hot weather in 2006 and the second happened today due to record cold weather. California had twice that many in one single year. New York prefers rolling brownouts (no one area completely cut off) to discourage looting. Texas has a better reliability record than either of them.

    Texas average residential electrical rate is $0.12/kwh without limit. Anthony Watts, a California resident, would probably give his left nut for electricity that cheap and dependable. He blogged recently that he was paying something like $0.40/kwh for electric use above some minimal lifeline amount. Average price in California is $0.14/kwh and in New York it’s $0.19/kwh. New York has 50% more nuclear power plants than Texas, by the way.

    http://blog.saveonenergy.com/2010/02/texas-electricity-competition-brings-energy-prices-below-national-average/

  175. Paul Hull says:

    Watch out for more failures when it starts to warm up. I spent 8 years in western Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming, most of it out doors. Despite the assurances of several engineers in the posts above, temperature could have been a factor. I remember a cold stretch of winter in Scottsbluff, NE in the early 70′s. We went from 12/29/73-1/12/74 with the temperature never rising above freezing and then dropping below zero each night. When the cold snap broke, the temperature shot up +/- 40 degrees in less than an hour as the chinook winds blew in. The twenty mile an hour winds, coupled with the rapid rise in temperature caused several structural failures in the region. These included stoplight horizontal arms and at least one partially constructed steel building. Since the wind wasn’t strong enough to account for the failures, there must have been a temperature component.

  176. Austin says:

    Watch that quality control in the steel.

    Most of those wind towers are probably cold rolled steel welded into a tube. Or cast sections. I wonder what kind of inspection process they use?

    When they get cold, they not only get brittle, but they undergo thermal strain. Add in a bending moment and vibrations from high winds, and something may break.

  177. Pamela Gray says:

    This should be a lesson to all those thinking about cashing in on the tax incentivized effort to replace wood burning stoves with anything else. Keep the wood burning stove. Eventually you will need it again. A high quality wood stove is the only heat source that allows you to survive off the guvmnt grid when it shuts down, and stay warm enough during frigid cold weather. It also allows you to cook food and boil water. If you don’t have this capacity, you are a sitting duck at best, cannon fodder at worst.

  178. Henry chance says:

    The tower builder Trinity in Texas builds a lot of tank cars. I don’t know whost tower this was but no one mentioned metal fatigue. A little flex and vibration can weaken the metals. It takes 1,450 tons of coal to make the steel in a huge tower. Algore says carbon free by 2018. There is no hiding use of carbon.

  179. Henry chance says:

    Kansas has a lot of wind and pays 6 cents / kwh. That is cheap because they have nuclear and coal. If they build may more turbines for free wind, the price will double quickly.

  180. John Trigge says:

    Greg Holmes says:
    February 2, 2011 at 1:14 am

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betz%27_law
    According to Betz’s law, no turbine can capture more than 59.3 percent of the kinetic energy in wind.

    It’s all downhill (towards the 20% you have seen) from there.

  181. John Trigge says:

    Does anyone have any idea of the effect of precession on wind generators?

    From my (long-ago) gyroscope theory, there could be a considerable twisting torque being applied to the towers causing them to buckle in high winds if blade rotation is not stopped in time.

    Although they do not appear to have high RPMs, the length of the blades means the tips are traveling at a high speed. Even attempting to turn a hand-held, spinning bicycle wheel (ie, small and slow speed) can demonstrate the torques involved.

  182. V Martin says:

    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/30961

    Wait a minute… it would appear that there is something amiss with this story. The above link with a picture that looks exactly like the failed tower has a date on it of Nov 25, 2010. So much for any discussion of what the temperature was in February, 2011 and what it might have had to do with the failure…. This thing has been laying there dead for a while.

    REPLY: The Facebook page shows the photos posted from yesterday. Looks like he wasn’t clear about them being older. I’ll make a note. – Thanks -Anthony

  183. Eric N. WY says:

    V Martin says:
    February 2, 2011 at 8:17 pm
    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/30961

    Wait a minute… it would appear that there is something amiss with this story. The above link with a picture that looks exactly like the failed tower has a date on it of Nov 25, 2010. So much for any discussion of what the temperature was in February, 2011 and what it might have had to do with the failure…. This thing has been laying there dead for a while.

    Quick gooogle check shows the conditions in Arlington, WY on 25.11.10 as cold and windy, as per usual for that area. Not as cold as the most recent conditions, but same ballpark. Does it really matter that it happened 2 months ago? Judging from some of the comments here, sounds like it’s not all that unusual.

    That being said, until I see a whole line of them blown over, I don’t see any irony here at all.

  184. Don Shaw says:

    As someone who has been involved in the design of numerous pressure vessel and storage tanks including tall stacks and towers it is disapointing to see the structural failure of the subject windmill, given all the knowledge and experience in other industries with the design of similar structures and the analytical tools available today to safely design even more complex structures. Something obviously is not right.

    Just looking at the pictures it is difficult to determine the root cause of the failure. I am not familiar with the specific design codes used for windmill structures or what special loads they must consider. As already mentioned the ASME Boiler and Pressure vessel codes for unfired pressure vessels (ASME Section VIII Div 1 and 2) provide proven design procedures for wind, earthquake and other loads for structures such as tall towers. I would not be surprised if there have been Pressure vessel tower collapses, however I have not seen such an incident in almost 50 years of experience absent a fire where the metal strength has been significantly reduced as happened to world trade towers. There may have been some tower collapses due to Hurricanes where the initial design wind velocity was exceeded.
    Some general comments:
    1) Large portions of the windmill structure show a significant amount of ductility suggesting that as least some of the material was not brittle at the exposure temperature. A weldment could have lacked ductility or there could have been a weld defect that caused a brittle fracture.
    2) Materials science re brittle failures has advanced considerably since WW II when the liberty ships failed. There is no excuse for a brittle fracture today unless the temperature drops below the official minimum design temperature for the site.
    3) ASME codes provides a comprehensive design criteria for brittle fracture and covers numerous materials, material thickness and suitable exposure temperature. Not all steels have the same properties and desired properties are tailored by varying the chemistry and the steel making process. I believe -50 F is achievable without spending too much a premium with Carbon Steels depending on thickness. Thicker steels are more prone to brittle fracture than thin steels. The Tensile strength of the steel is not reduced at lower temperatures, but the toughness is reduced.
    4) Every ASME pressure vessel built must be designed for the expected lowest exposure temperature, wind chill does not lower the metal temperature. I worked on a project in Northern Canada where the temperatures were as low as – 40 F using carbon steels for large pressure vessels.
    5) There are standard ASTM tests that are used to test materials capability to resist brittle fracture. ASME commonly uses charpy V tests that expose the steel with a v- notch to a blow at the test temperature and the energy required (ft-lb) to break the specimen is recorded. Failure to meet this test is cause for material rejection.
    6) ASME also provides allowable stresses for all tensile and compressive (buckling) loads. Large diameter/thickness ratios have lower allowable compressive loads for buckling. The nature of the failure makes one suspicious that buckling may have been the failure mode.
    7) Openings in the shell must be properly reinforced to control stresses and avoid buckling, another possibility!
    8) Of course one cannot rule out that the temperature fell below the lowest design metal temperature or the designer picked a standard design off the shelf not suitable for the normal lowest temperature. Alternatively the wind load could have exceeded the design wind load for the site, such as has happended in the Gulf coast with recent Hurricanes.
    9) It is possible that cracks have formed and grown due to the vibration loads associated with the blade rotation possibly in conjunction with other loads.

    Bottom line: a proper failure analysis/investigation must be performed to determine the cause of failure including a metallurgical inspection of the fracture surface under a microscope, testing of material specimens for strength and toughness, and advanced stress analysis. It is irresponsible not to undertake the investigation and publish the results for public consumption and to correct any deficiencies in other structures.

  185. stan stendera says:

    My birds have twittered. “At least that windmill is not killing our revelent others.

  186. SteveE says:

    richard verney says:

    Wind power is simply incapable of providing energy security. This is blatantly obvious and this hair brained scheme should be dropped forthwith. The UK like all other countries requires reliable energy produced as cheaply as possible.

    —————————-

    And you think that the 7 days of gas storage we have in this country is enough when the Russian next turn off the taps? Hardly energy security is it?

    The reserves in the North Sea are running out with little propsect of find any more hydrocarbons in any significant amounts. Nuclear is the only way to replace the energy gap or renewable sources and most people don’t want a nuclear plant in their back garden.

    It still doesn’t distract from the idea that millions will die from getting 30% of our electricity from wind power is alarmist in the extreme!

  187. Jack Simmons says:

    Freddy T says:
    February 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I’m sure oil drilling rigs have also failed due to weather. Especially offshore rigs due to waves, hurricanes, et cetera. And there must have been a few lightning strikes that set the oil on fire…

    It is worthwhile to replace an oil drilling rig because of the plentiful and cheap energy produced. Not so with a bird/bat grinder.

    Also an oil rig is replaced with private funding; not so with bird/bat grinder.

  188. Jack Simmons says:

    Don Shaw says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Bottom line: a proper failure analysis/investigation must be performed to determine the cause of failure including a metallurgical inspection of the fracture surface under a microscope, testing of material specimens for strength and toughness, and advanced stress analysis. It is irresponsible not to undertake the investigation and publish the results for public consumption and to correct any deficiencies in other structures.

    Don,

    What a bizarre concept. Make careful measurements and gather facts before indulging in speculation? Your thinking is way out of step with the thinking of the mob.

    An excellent post. One of the best I’ve read here, and that is saying a lot.

  189. Derek Reynolds says:

    To Patrick Davis at 12.50 am, I believe you will find that the TITANIC was built of wrought iron plate, not steel, but certainly all riveted construction. The quality of the iron was indeed found to be inferior in later testing whereupon it shattered in impact tests relatively easily compared to a better quality iron. I cannot speak about the rivets though they would almost certainly have been iron also. Had the vessel been built with its watertight bulkheads extended upwards through the decks, it may well have survived. But as each bulkhead section filled and overflowed into the next, the chain reaction spelt doom.

    There have been many boats built of Lowmoor Iron forged in the Midland shires and many still survive, some are Ice boats on the canal, and two I know of in particular were built pre-1870; LAPLANDER & BALTIC. Strong stuff when poured correctly and very corrosion resistant. I believe TITANIC’s sister ship was of far better quality.

    To Greg Holmes at 01.14 am. This is not a shame, it is a disaster. The disaster is that our UK (and elsewhere) governments have launched us into excruciatingly expensive power sources that do not – cannot – meet energy demands when required. The performance of these catastrophic monsters marring the landscape, are creating vast areas of chemical wastelands in the country of origin from whence some vital rare earth is required for the construction of their generator magnets – namely neodymium from China: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html

    When the wind does not blow, these huge turbines need to be driven round so as to prevent sagging of mainshaft components. When the temperature drops and ice forms, the blades need to be heated to prevent imbalance and major failure. This causes them to be CONSUMERS of power under such circumstances. The output from all of the UK’s wind turbines rarely gets higher than 6% of total demand, and during the coldest periods recently experienced, dropped to below 1%. Current power output by generation type can be monitored at n.e.t.a. here: http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp.php#chartelement
    It should also be noted that due to the unsteady reliability of the wind to blow at the right speed at the right times, conventional power stations will need to be fired and running to balance all output to demand as required. No savings there, none anywhere – wind powered electricity alone will cost not just money – but lives. As an additional power source – they are a financial drain on the consumer.

    As machines of awesome beauty, they may be seen by some. But the cost and disruption to the landscape has to embody the thousands of tons of concrete poured for their bases, miles of access roads to their sites, and the now established damage to wild bird life they cause.

    We no longer grind corn into flour using wind. If such was an efficient device to do so, would the land not be covered by corn grinding windmills? At least one can live in such ancient structures. (Legs and health permitting).

  190. Lonnie E. Schubert says:

    Take it from a guy who wrote his thesis on ductile to brittle transition, cold had nothing to do with embrittling the metal. It wasn’t that cold (most steel alloy’s basic qualification is a DBTT less than -40°), and the failure is obviously not from brittleness.

    Lots of comments related. Some good some bad. Windmills will never make it, but ductile to brittle transition will not be a factor. The deaths from rolling blackouts will be. (See the more recent post about Texas.)

    We figured out steel quality after the liberty ships. There has been very little problem with that since. (Some. We are still human.)

  191. V Martin says:

    Eric N. WY says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm Says…
    Does it really matter that it happened 2 months ago?

    Well, when you have almost 200 posts with many theorizing about the failure and basing them on the misinformation of the temperatures that existed at the time, yes. And by the way, the other link didn’t actually say when the failure occurred… it could be much older than two months. It’s good to have the right information and hopefully somebody who knows with certainty will post it here.

    Don Shaw says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm says…

    Bottom line: a proper failure analysis/investigation must be performed to determine the cause of failure including a metallurgical inspection of the fracture surface under a microscope, testing of material specimens for strength and toughness, and advanced stress analysis. It is irresponsible not to undertake the investigation and publish the results for public consumption and to correct any deficiencies in other structures.

    I agree with this sentiment exactly… since the public has an interest in this issue (both with the security of supply and safety since failed parts could leave the property), the public should have complete unfettered access to the results.

    Here’s my question… Where on earth are the professional engineers societies with respect to these failures? Surely there is enough of a history of failures to warrant the creation of a new set of standards that at least relates separation distances to height of towers (as well as establishing other important engineering criteria) etc. In my opinion, the minimum distance from the tall ones to a property line should be 5 miles.

  192. jt says:

    tx had rolling blackout yesterday (2-1-11) due to frozen pipes. took 2 plants offline

  193. nemo says:

    You leverage a collapsed steel wind tower with a power plant, they are vastly different in scope and design. the problem has nothing to do with wind power and everything to do with our crappy american design and engineering systems.

  194. Nathan says:

    This happened at least on or before November 10th, 2010. This was not winter/cold related. Perhaps strong wind and engineering design, but not “brittle” steel.

  195. Arthur Maplethorpe says:

    It looks like the turbine fell on top of something. Here’s an enhanced version of that picture that shows it better: http://i.imgur.com/rTo3F.jpg

  196. Smokey says:

    Good one, Arthur!

  197. Al Gored says:

    Yes, very good one Arthur! Thanks for the laugh.

  198. Feet2theFire says:

    @Tom February 2, 2011 at 1:36 am:

    The extreme cold is indeed likely to be the culprit. On very little evidence, it looks like a weld failure around the top of the tower door, always a weak point in a tower.

    From those pics I would agree, the top of the tower door does look like it was involved, possibly in a primary way. The “ring shape” from bottom of the door to top of the door is certainly a weak area, if not beefed up/stiffened.

    As you would know, engineering design so often assumes the shape of a structural member retains its shape. The minute the shape is compromised the formulas don’t work as advertised. The side load from the wind is certainly what took this down. Internal stiffening rings would seem to be a decent and cheap way to make sure the shape is retained. The other more expensive way would be to enlarge the diameter at the base.

    You can see by the number of anchor bolts how much force the tower is designed for. Those are probably 3/4″ anchor bolts, and it looks like about 40 of them around on about 6″ centers. With that much lateral force, stiffening rings should have been used. The photos don’t exactly look like any were used.

    It is hard to tell, but I can’t see any actual thickness to the steel plate used, so for some reason that suggests like 1/4″ or perhaps 3/8″ was used. If so and they were counting on that, the thickness seems pretty dicey to me. But that observation is flimsy by me, based only on what I can make out from the 2 pics. But an online search didn’t turn up anymore pics.
    _____
    As to those who point at the cold, a UK web page at http://tiny.cc/oqfda should provide some perspective.

  199. JPeden says:

    Arthur, that was baaaad!

  200. Patrick Davis says:

    “Derek Reynolds says:
    February 3, 2011 at 4:44 am”

    Yes you are right, wrought iron was used not steel. But, along with the unsealed bulkheads (Unsinkable? I mean a series of wrought iron boxes, riveted together, with the lid missing, unsinkable?), an arrogant captain, a fast ship equiped with a small rudder, the rivets failing were the main cause. Actually, no, cost cutting was the main culprit.

    TBH I didn’t notice the door at the bottom of the tower but it seems to be a standard design to me, certainly similar to all others I’ve seen. I wonder is any computer models were used in the design phase for stress testing. Like in the auto mfg industry, there are many computer stress simulations done these days, as well as actual crash tests. Maybe we need a “save wind turbine towers” levy? As far as I know, the Koreans make the best quality steel.

  201. Patrick Davis says:

    PS. The towers should be made out of carbon fibre, it’s much much stronger than steel.

  202. Lonnie E. Schubert says:

    Regarding the “strength” of steel and other materials:

    Glass: mechanics and technology: indicates the calculated strength of glass at 16 GPa http://books.google.com/books?id=oSN-XMuDj5wC&pg=PA135&lpg=PA135&dq=theoretical+strength+of+glass&source=bl&ots=0BHnY9V0DV&sig=gLYFab38N9iWFHXFZKdR_4rc78k&hl=en&ei=5PdLTcOeH470swOmm8WZCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=theoretical%20strength%20of%20glass&f=false, high strength steel is near 3 GPa.
    Of course, wiki has articles, such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_of_materials.
    And, yes, carbon fiber is stronger, near 5 GPa, but the problem is brittleness. A carbon fiber breaks like glass. That is why glass is a poor structural material. That is why we use glass and carbon fibers in composites, to take advantage of the strength and mitigate the brittleness with the bulk material. It doesn’t always work as we’d like. Nano carbon tubes (Fullerenes) are different. They are potentially super strong, but it is still carbon. Last I checked, carbon is highly reactive with most elements, especially oxygen. ;-)

    While brittle is bad, strong is good. Generally you get one with the other. There are exceptions. It must all be balanced to give the best combinations for the intended application.

  203. Mark Miller says:

    Kum Dollison says:
    February 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm
    “Southern California Edison has selected 250 MW worth of solar bids from companies able to produce solar electricity for 20 years for less money annually than the 20 year levelized cost of energy of a combined-cycle natural gas turbine power plant.

    Southern California Edison buys 20 years of Solar for less than the levelized cost of nat gas:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/01/sce-buys-20-years-of-solar-power-for-less-than-natural-gas/

    They could have purchased ten times as much if they’d wished.

    We seem to be looking at something under $0.11 kwh.”

    Thanks for the link to what SCE is doing in regards to meeting the 33%RES by 2020. Their approach to putting PV in locations near their distribution and transmission (and close to their customers) lines seems like a more total cost effective way to get electricity their customers than PG&E’s recent contract to purchase electricity at a large PV installation in NV-Boulder City noted here- http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Sempras-Copper-Mountain-is-Now-the-Largest-PV-Plant-in-U.S/

    We put a PV system in at our little ranch back in 2006 and have been very happy with it (last month- an unusually sunny Jan- we produced close to 600 kilowatt hours of energy with our 6.12 kw system). I assume that the folks putting in the PV systems are (or will be) under contracts, which are confidential, similar to how our Feed In Tariff works. The investors in the systems signed 20 year contract with SCE to provide electricity at a price based on when they send (time of day and likely time of year- i.e. summer and winter) to the grid. Your comment on the average price for what the investors of the generation will receive sounds about right (11 cents). In the winter I get a credit (vs. $) towards my yearly PG&E bill of about 12.94 cents per kw/hr that I send back to the grid during peak times.

    You may recall that PG&E went bankrupt back in the early 2000′s during the energy crisis we had here in CA (that Enron had a lot to do with). There was a perceived generation capacity shortage back then and that concern held till mid 2006 as I was able to secure an E-7 net meter from PG&E in 2006. As a generator of electricity for the grid PG&E pays me (opps credits me) a bit over 30 cents a kw/hr in the summer high demand peak times for the energy I can send them. The folks providing SCE will be getting a premium for the energy they are providing SCE at peak times during the summer too. Not likely .30 by likely around .20 or so.

    I used to get a 10 to 20 page summary of the allocated costs from PG&E for my monthly bill/usage. Needless to say it was more then a bit painful to figure out all the allocations I was charged (or credited for once I became a generator). I have enjoyed summer electrical prices from PG&E ever sense I put the our PV system in. As I noted above we get a bit over .30 a kw/hr for the electricity we send to the grid at peak time in the summer with our 2006 version of a smart meter. The dynamic pricing schedule that we have was enabled by a smart meter. What I found interesting I reviewing those detailed bills I used to get from PG&E was the breakdown of all the costs. I live very close to a few small to medium size hydro plants so my cost breakdown may be different then other customers of PG&E.

    The breakdown of the allocated costs I paid PG&E for a years (7/08 to 7/09) worth of energy is as follows:
    Total KW used (2008-9) 17156
    % from PV 55.18
    7/2008 to 7/2009
    Billing Category $ % of bill
    Transmission 77.3 19.55
    Public Purpose 71.56 18.10
    Generation 143.41 36.27
    EC tax 1.71 0.43
    Energy cost recovery 22.12 5.59
    DWR bond 37.3 9.43
    ongoingctc 39.88 10.09
    nuc decomm 2.11 0.53
    Gross bill 395.39 100
    Distribution -92.4
    Net bill 302.99

    What I found amazing from my bill was how little, percentage wise, the generation part of getting electricity to me was of my total costs. PG&E recently acknowledged (in their 2011 General Rate Case comments to the CPUC) that their increased costs over the last few years (actually since they started with the 5 tier progressive rate structure in 2005) was allocated to Tier 3, 4 and 5 users in their system. From now on they will be allocating their costs across more tiers (including Tier 1 and 2). If we assume SCE costs are 50% for generation currently then for them to sell a kw/hr of energy to a SCE user they need to charge over .22 a kw to cover their costs. If they are paying the generator of the PV generated electricity a premium in the summer during peak times their costs will be higher. You can see why smart meters are needed to allocate these extra costs to users at peak times.

    If you happen to live in SCE’d service area I would highly recommend looking into generating some of your own electricity if you can. The rebates from SCE are still fairly high (they are really low in PG&E’s territory now) as someone is going to have to pay for the premium pricing that SCE is going to be paying the generators of the new PV you noted in your post.

  204. Bernd Felsche says:

    People who suggest that one should make the towers out of carbon fibre (CF) instead should first look at the cost of materials for the amount of load carried, then the cost of manufacture, the means of assembly and then the vastly different material properties which will mean that a CF tower will be much stiffer than a steel one and more slender for the same strength and quasi-static deflection. Depending on the other composites employed and the way in which they are “woven”, there could well be less dissipation of energy within the material which means that the structure will be sensisitve to largely undamped vibrations. Extra costs to nullify those effects.

    As a point of reference, ask Boeing how much it a fuselage of a Dreamliner costs to make and how long it takes to make it. How clean the manufacturing environment has to be. What is involved in joining CF components in a structurally-sound, corrosion-resistant manner.

    The solution to a flawed design is not the use of an expensive, esoteric material. One identifies why the structure failed and builds a better one … which in a proper design process often leads to a cheaper implementation that works better. That’s what real Engineers do; being the Olympians of applied sciences. (Now where the emoticon showing tongue slighlty in-cheek?)

  205. Sedona Mike says:

    Without massive federal subsidies, wind does not work. Only thing worse is solar. I with a group of others tried to put a wind deal together, and the only thing that made it remotely interesting is that the power company offered to buy power from us at $.09 kilowatt. They sell it for about $.14 a kilowatt. It was marginal at best at this price considering the cost an installation, AND the huge maintenance cost of a turbine. And the only reason that it was .09, was that the state mandated a certain percentage of power come from “green” technology. Otherwise the power company was paying $.03 per Kilowatt from normal power plants. Well friends and neighbors, guess who gets to pay for that good green wind power. Look at your electric bill, just another form of government folly and tax.

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