The reality of wind turbines in California – video

As many know, I was on a road trip for two weeks. On my return into California, I traveled a road I had done many many times – California Highway 58 through Tehachapi pass, one of the windiest areas of California, and loaded with wind turbines like you see in this photo from www.wind-works.org which seems to be taken during 2003. All the turbines seem to be spinning.

But, the reality I encounter when I drive through there is much different than what you see in the photo above. I often drive this road, but always wished I had a video camera with me to show how many turbines are inoperable since this doesn’t show up well in still photos. Unless you have a slow shutter speed to show “blade blur”, they all look inoperable.

But this day was different. I did have a video camera with me. Plus, the day I drove through, Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 was near perfect for wind turbines. There was a front coming in, and strong winds ahead of it.

Here’s the wind data from the ASOS at the Tehachapi airport during the time I drove through:

The wind data displayed above are measured at 1000′ lower elevation than the wind turbines on the top of the ridge, where the wind velocity will be higher.

And here is what I saw of the wind turbines along the ridge top, there were quite a few inoperable on this windy day. This video was taken right about 11AM PST:

There were many more inoperable turbines, but could not be filmed from a safe vantage point along the highway. This video was take from the semi-truck staging area near the agricultural inspection station.

My best guess from the video and others I saw that I could not film is that about one in four turbines were not operating.

The problem is maintenance. The location, while perfect for wind, is treacherous for work and support equipment. Even on a flat terrain, like in Texas (shown below) where I photographed these turbines, doing maintenance on gearboxes and generators high up on a post isn’t easy.

Imagine the complications on a mountain ridge for maintenance.

On the wind-works.org website “tour” section, they lament the condition of the Zond (Enron) wind power sites:

Wind Plant Maintenance Items to Note

Throughout the Tehachapi-Mojave area look for turbines without nose cones, turbines without nacelles (blown off and not replaced), oil leaking from blade-pitch seals, oil leaking from gearboxes, road cuts in steep terrain, erosion gullies, non-operating turbines, and “bone piles” of junk parts. One Zond bone pile of abandoned fiberglass blades is visible on the east side of Tehachapi-Willow Springs Rd. near Oak Creek Pass. (Kern County doesn’t permit on-ground disposal of fiberglass.) While touring wind farm sites look for blowing trash and litter (plastic bags, soft-drink cups, bottles, electrical connectors, scrap bits of metal, and so on). These all reflect management’s attention to maintenance and general housekeeping. At the better sites, you won’t see any of this.

Even on the valley floor, the smaller four turbines just west of the Tehachapi airport that greet visitors who drive in from Bakersfield had a problem, and these are on flat ground and accessible:

In Palm Springs, CA, another windy place, they have similar problems:

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

Florida’s broken windmills:  A California problem

Broken

Blades

The permit allowing windmills to go in didn’t say they could sit there broken. Palm Springs is getting tough. If windmills are going to exist in the city they must be operational. A city that has welcomed windmills since it was first approached about them in the early 1980’s is finding that many of those windmills are no longer working and it wants them fixed. The question is who’s responsible for fixing them? Florida Power and Light (FPL), the owner of the inoperable windmills, was allowed to install and operate local windmill farms under a conditional use permit (CUP) stipulating if the windmill does not run for six months, it’s declared a public nuisance and without a hearing, must be abated.

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

Here’s a video showing the inside operations of a wind power facility in Washington State

And, the lack of maintenance problem is not just in California. In 2001, I visited Kamoa wind farm near Southpoint in the big island of Hawaii. The wind is so strong there, trees grow horizontal like this one:

As much as I was surprised by the horizontal trees, I was equally surprised to see dead wind turbines there. It was my first experience with a wind farm.

From this American Thinker article “Wind energy’s ghosts”:

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

Kamaoa Windmills 006 crop.jpg
Kamaoa Wind Farm, Hawaii. (image)

Built in 1985, at the end of the boom, Kamaoa soon suffered from lack of maintenance. In 1994, the site lease was purchased by Redwood City, CA-based Apollo Energy.

Cannibalizing parts from the original 37 turbines, Apollo personnel kept the declining facility going with outdated equipment. But even in a place where wind-shaped trees grow sideways, maintenance issues were overwhelming. By 2004 Kamaoa accounts began to show up on a Hawaii State Department of Finance list of unclaimed properties. In 2006, transmission was finally cut off by Hawaii Electric Company.

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

http://img.groundspeak.com/waymarking/5132c3b0-37d9-4e23-83fd-68ca51729f7b.jpg

Image from Waymarking.com

Again, like in California, Hawaii’s turbine problem is lack of maintenance.

But isn’t that the way it always has been with windmills?

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE: It appears Idaho is getting set for putting a wind power moratorium in place:

KIFI logo

State Lawmakers Look At Wind Energy Moratorium

story image

Mar 18, 2011 6:16 p.m.

BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho — Construction of wind turbines may be coming to a halt in Idaho.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent the construction of any new wind farm for the next two years.

Over the last year, dozens of new wind turbines have gone up on east bench just outside Idaho Falls, but many of the neighbors and their legislators want to put a temporary end to new construction.

When the legislature adopted the 2007 energy plan, it did not envision so many energy companies wanting to build wind farms in Idaho.

Bill sponsor Erik Simpson said he and both his Republican and Democratic colleagues agree they need to take a look at the long-term consequences.

“Local governments need some direction as to what should be included in some of their ordinances, recognizing some of the impacts that are out there on wind, and we need to find out what those impacts might be,” said State Affairs Committee member Tom Loertcher.

To conduct the study, the bill proposes a two-year moratorium on wind farm construction.

“It may be a problem mostly in eastern Idaho now, but it’s likely to be a problem in (other legislators’) communities as well unless we take this two year pause and study this a little more in depth,” Simpson said.

Wind power is not the cheapest way to produce energy, and lawmakers want to make sure their constituents don’t have to pay top rate.

“Utility rate payers are paying more for this unreliable intermittent energy source,” Simpson said.

Many are also concerned about the environment.

“A lot of these projects are going up in pristine wildlife areas,” Simpson said.

But not everyone agrees. Some local people like Bonneville County farmer Tory Talbot want to continue to see more turbines.

“The moratorium will basically limit businesses wanting to come into Idaho. Southeastern Idaho and southern Idaho has a huge wind energy potential,” Talbot said.

The State Affairs Committee plans to continue the debate on Monday when they hear from utility companies and energy companies.

They will then vote on whether they should move the bill to the House floor.

If the bill passes, any project already approved would be allowed to move forward.

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

UPDATE2: The maintenance problem also extends to Germany:

From: jcwinnie.biz

HAWT Destruction from Gearbox Failure
Gearboxes have been failing in wind turbines since the early 1990s. Barely a turbine make has escaped. The problem reached epidemic proportions with a massive series failure of gearboxes in NEG Micon machines. At the time, the NEG Micon brand was the most sold wind turbine in the world. The disaster brought the company to its knees ; It was taken over by Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, which still is challenged by gearbox and rotor failures.

As previously noted, a large number of gearboxes have had to be replaced “in large numbers.” Der Spiegel reports that the German Insurance Association is none too happy…

“In addition to generators and gearboxes, rotor blades also often display defects,” a report on the technical shortcomings of wind turbines claims. The insurance companies are complaining of problems ranging from those caused by improper storage to dangerous cracks and fractures… The frail turbines coming off the assembly lines at some manufacturers threaten to damage an industry that for years has been hailed as a wild success.

At Spiegel Online, Simone Kaiser and Michael relay a concern about installed wind turbines:

After the industry’s recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers’ promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Energy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

202 Responses to The reality of wind turbines in California – video

  1. Lance says:

    Isn’t that where all the ‘green’ jobs are? Fixing them? I guess the cost wasn’t worth it…..go figure…

  2. JRR Canada says:

    And the subsidy or tax credit ran out. Govt expertise at work again

  3. DJ says:

    I’ve spent time in both Tehachapi and Palm Springs over the last 20 years, as well as driving through Mojave on Highway 14, so I too have observed the windmills and wondered the same thing.

    Why are so many not operating?

    On a trip to Palm Springs one summer back around 2005 or ’06, it was 118deg F, and I really didn’t understand why there was a significant percentage of windmills not operating along the highway and on the adjacent hills going into town. As I recall the number was roughly 1 in 6? I could be wrong there, but it was so many that it got my attention. At a peak demand time of day, temperatures in the deadly range, and windmills sitting idle.

    In both winter and summer you’ll see similar percentages in the hills surrounding Tehachapi/Mojave. As Anthony claims, in the pass on 58 the hills are thick with windmills, and many aren’t moving.

    So the simple question is: If they’re so good, why aren’t they working?

  4. Dave Wendt says:

    And just think, we only have to build 10 to 15 times more of these wonderful devices to approach the 20% of generating capacity which is the supposed goal of all these various kickback and subsidy programs. On the plus side it would turn out to be quite a green jobs program if we did it. It would likely take between a quarter and a third of the entire national workforce working overtime to keep them all well maintained and operational.

  5. Stephen Rasey says:

    turbines without nose cones, turbines without nacelles (blown off and not replaced), oil leaking from blade-pitch seals, oil leaking from gearboxes, road cuts in steep terrain, erosion gullies, non-operating turbines, and “bone piles” of junk parts.

    Immediately what comes to mind are images of gold mine tailings littering the mountain valley walls in Colorado. I guess today we are looking at the aftermath of a public subsidy gold rush in wind farms.

  6. kramer says:

    Those things are a blight on the countryside…

  7. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Anthony, I once drove north from Fresno to San Francisco, about 1988 or so, and saw an immense pass filled with these things. As you also noticed, I was stunned by how many were inoperable.

    These things are a blight and should be outlawed.

  8. King of Cool says:

    Notwithstanding the maintenance problems what about that visual pollution!

    What a way to destroy a beautiful landscape. And how many dead birds were there?
    Or does the noise frighten them all away?

  9. PaulC says:

    You are dead right Anthony maintinance is an issue!

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

  10. GBees says:

    “oil leaking from blade-pitch seals, oil leaking from gearboxes,”

    hmmmm… aren’t the Greens wanting to shutdown our use of oil as well?

  11. Bill Garote says:

    I always figured the turbines near Palm Springs were just business write offs for the super rich. Fly out and “Inspect your equipment” and then spend the rest of the time drinking and playing golf with the other super rich.

  12. Rascal says:

    Noisy contraptions!

  13. John F. Hultquist says:

    Do you know the story for the last photo?

    Locally our wind turbines are anchored to buried concrete masses. These are all relatively new. They could not tip like this one. That one that is tipped over looks as though it is attached to a slab not thicker than a driveway. Does it have a smaller deep-root that does not show in the photo? I’ve seen shallow rooted trees tipped out of the ground when the ground is saturated and there is strong wind. There is something wrong about the structure in that photo!

  14. mike g says:

    I imagine it’ll take subsidies to do maintenance on them. It’ll probably cost more money to maintain them than they’ll earn in revenue.

  15. Dave Wendt says:

    And in the video, besides the ones that aren’t moving, I thought I spotted at least a couple that were counter rotating, indicating that they were actually drawing power off the grid. From what I’ve seen this type of failure is also fairly common.

  16. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Am I missing something? Is this before or after the windmills were hit by an earthquake/tsunami sequence?

    Before you answer smugly that windmills are on hills above tsunami levels, remember that the transmission lines and access roads are often unprotected. Then there’s the off-shore wind farms …… How many would have survived a Richter scale 9.0 plus a 7 metre high tsunami as in Japan last week? My guess is, none.

  17. Baa Humbug says:

    The visual pollution is depressing.
    Where are the good environmentalists when you need ‘em?

    p.s. Those huge concrete blocks? They will be there for ever, never to be dug up.

  18. Charlie Foxtrot says:

    High maintenance and the high employment that results is one of the “advantages” of wind power (remember the promise of five million green jobs, but then they never defined what qualifies as a green job). One documentary I happened to see said that a crew of three was required for every 6 windmills. I suspect they will not age well, too many high stress moving parts. Changing an oil seal on a blade must be a real trick. Has anyone seen an estimated useful life? I wonder if they pay off their initial cost before they start slinging blades around the countryside. Also very hazardous for the mechanics, I would think, given the heights and size of the parts.

    On a trip from Boise to Portland, following I84 through the Columbia Gorge, one passes numerous wind farms. I never counted, but there are perhaps a thousand mills within view from the highway. Normally, the gorge is one of the windiest places on earth. Forty MPH continuous winds can be encountered, and I have. But on a day last fall, there was no wind, and virtually none of the windmills were (or is it was) turning. The trip through the gorge takes several hours, and the situation did not change during that time. This might not be normal, but it does happen. Hot standby power will always be needed, which negates much of the supposed advantages of the windmills. They also have issues in ice storms and ice fog, or extreme wind, all requiring shutdown.

  19. jorgekafkazar says:

    Baa Humbug says: “p.s. Those huge concrete blocks? They will be there for ever, never to be dug up.”

    What basis do you have for saying that? Windfarm leases call for removal of all equipment and foundations and restoration to approximate original grade. But even if they’re not removed, this land isn’t likely to be needed for much. It’s mostly desert, not suitable for farming, except sheep, sagebrush, juniper bushes, rattlesnakes.

    Here’s a wind map of California. The relevant location is slightly west of halfway between B-town and Barstow, not far from my brother-in-law’s place. As you can see, that area was chosen wisely. Unfortunately, the wind doesn’t always blow, and, when it does, the utilities don’t always need the electricity!

  20. Claude Harvey says:

    The best of them in the best locations seldom exceed 30% capacity factor. That means to get an average of 30Kw (at best) out of the windmills you must install 100Kw machines. Then it gets worse: IEEE figures on industry reported O&M costs show wind machines running horrendous expenses that total approximately half of the average wholesale rate of electric power at the trading hubs. Those transmissions and blade feathering mechanisms will really eat your lunch. Add it all up and you’ll find they’re economic dogs that live off taxpayer subsidies in the form of investment tax credits, accelerated depreciation and depletion allowances (how can you deplete the wind?)

  21. martin brumby says:

    Difficult to maintain?

    Unreliable?

    Hazardous work?

    Hmmmmmm

    So how are we going to manage in the UK with the tens of thousands of turbines planned ‘offshore’, up to 50 miles away from land, in the middle of the North Sea? At a knock down price of at least €150 Billion over the next 10 years.

    That should present some interesting maintenance and repair challenges.

    Meanwhile the 3000 turbines we already have produce less than 2% of our electricity averaged over 2010.

    The people who promote BigWind (not least Buff Huhne and his predecessor Eddie Millipede) are either breathtakingly incompetent (the greenies and politicians) or blatantly dishonest (the companies who build the wretched things).

  22. Mike McMillan says:

    I flew over Altamont pass many times out of SFO back in the 90’s, and seldom saw more than a fraction of the turbines turning.

  23. dave Harrison says:

    You don’t see that this all panned by the greens – to save birds of prey – that is one in four hawks that are not killed!

  24. John Q Public says:

    If they made economic sense, you would think the maintenance work would be done. When the return is < 0% they rust apart once the grant money stops.

  25. P. Solar says:

    Geoff Sherrington says:
    >>
    Then there’s the off-shore wind farms …… How many would have survived a Richter scale 9.0 plus a 7 metre high tsunami as in Japan last week? My guess is, none.
    >>

    There again probably no one would be stupid enough to build an off-shore wind farm in fault line susceptible to have a mag 9 event. They save those sites for clusters of nuclear reactors. The other difference worth if you want to make stupid comments is that if you have an oil leak on the gear box of wind turbine , you don’t need to evacuate half a million people. Neither are “bone yards” of old turbine blades going to be a major danger to all life-forms for the next few hundred , thousand years. No Yucca mountains needed.

    Neither is the pollution of broken turbines likely to cause problems like BP created in the Gulf of Mexico.

    More seriously though , this random, perhaps non representative report is not encouraging. Clearly this is picking out worst cases to make the point. Pictures of well maintained sites would be boring. Maybe a survey like surfacestations project would be interesting.

    It’s noteworthy that one of the sites is run by Enron. What is their interest is wind? What’s their reason for investing? Maybe a few photo ops to put on their PR literature, tax-credits, hopes of carbon trading offsetting oil pollution. Whatever their financial motives it is quite likely that producing electricity was not their aim so maintenance at the site is not important.

    This case alone seems to suggest badly structured subsidies are letting corporations cream of a nice profit without the need to actually produce any power.

    But nuclear power is not profitable without subsidies either , it just makes a bigger mess when site maintenance isn’t done or a generator gets flooded.

  26. P. Solar says:

    There’s some turbines not far from here. I’ll pop out later and see how many are moving.

  27. Brian Johnson uk says:

    Slightly off thread but did the Japanese Earthquake ‘kill’ any wind turbines [ I am assuming the Japanese would have such devices?]

  28. Jeremy says:

    The I-10 pass out of Southern California holds the first large scale wind-farm project in the U.S. On the east side you have Palm Springs, on the West, the 909 and greater Southern California. They’ve *always* had maintenance problems. The maintenance issues are far worse there, since this entire area houses something like 5-10 different windmill designs. It was a testing bed for windmill design. This pass is windy 95% of the time, and the direction is nearly always West-to-East. However, you’ll never see all of the blades spinning at once. If you’re lucky you’ll find a bank on the eastern edges that has a lot of them spinning.

    This farm has been in operation since the early 90s, we knew then this idea was absurd. The greens pushed it anyway.

  29. Phillip Bratby says:

    John F. Hultquist says:
    March 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    The concrete foundations are just reinforced concrete blocks; they are not anchored to bedrock. They cannot be inspected. They can rock due to prolonged stresses in all directions and the whole edifice can eventually topple over (see the Caithness information refernced by PaulC).

    In the UK, part of the planning permission is that above-ground work must be removed after the life is over, but the concrete is left in the ground.

  30. kwik says:

    Why can’t we send in Greenpeace to fix them ?

    Haha!!

    Oh, now I remember. They study soft sciences, like sociology and such things.

    Cannot be used to fix real problems in the real world.

  31. MarkoL says:

    Every time I see any footage of any windfarm anywhere in the world, I can always count at least 10-15 windturbines standing still (roughly at least about 15%), so this does not surprise me one bit.
    The greenies are very happy to report that the earthquake in Japan did not damage any of the windturbines in Japan. Just Duckduckgo “windturbines earthquake japan”. The other story would be how much energy those windturbines are actually generating compared to the “promised” levels.

  32. David says:

    jorgekafkazar says:
    March 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm
    Baa Humbug says: “p.s. Those huge concrete blocks? They will be there for ever, never to be dug up.”

    What basis do you have for saying that? Windfarm leases call for removal of all equipment and foundations and restoration to approximate original grade.

    jorgekafkazar, I guess someone forgot to tell some of these places. At any rate, if the owners go broke, so what. Law is not wealth, and one who is broke cannot fund removal.

  33. Alberta Slim says:

    martin brumby says………

    “The people who promote BigWind (not least Buff Huhne and his predecessor Eddie Millipede) are either breathtakingly incompetent (the greenies and politicians) or blatantly dishonest (the companies who build the wretched things).”

    So true. I find it difficult to believe that the UK has a population that keeps voting in these people.
    It appears that the new Gov’t is a CINO gov’t [conservative in name only]
    Is there any hope for the UK?
    Australia seems to be not too far behind.

  34. David L says:

    GBees says:
    March 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm
    “oil leaking from blade-pitch seals, oil leaking from gearboxes,”

    hmmmm… aren’t the Greens wanting to shutdown our use of oil as well?”

    Don’t worry: it’s natural carbon neutral whale oil.

  35. Perry says:

    Er, thanks for the video, perhaps? I now have to go and lie down until the ground stops spinning. Having 20 security lines would not have been enough for me to climb out there as what guarantee do I have that the railings would not pull out?

    It’s too Tarpeian Rock for me.

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

  36. P. Solar says:

    Does anyone know where there is some production data from Tehachapi or Horse Hallow wind farms. All I can find are “installed” power figures.

    It would be interesting to see how much that plant was generating on the day Anthony passed through.

  37. John Kehr says:

    If the greenies manage to kill nuclear, fossil fuel and hydro (trust me, they are trying because of the impact to fish reproduction) and we have to depend on wind and solar, then we will soon be back to a pre-industrial society.

    It makes me wonder if that is what they really want anyway.

  38. Tregonsee says:

    I am a retired airline pilot. One of the things I found interesting was to look down at the places with windmills and see how many were operating. The Palm Springs area, which is under one of the normal arrival routes to LAX, was a good example where on a typical day, only a small percentage would be moving even slowly. I visited a friend there, a retired EE, so the tour included the wind farms. Sure enough, many of them were being repaired, or “feathered” awaiting repairs.

  39. Bart says:

    Yep. Wind and solar both would require thousands upon thousands of units to have any hope of making a significant dent in our energy appetite. It’d be a maintenance nightmare. Yet, the topic seems never to be considered in all the pie-in-the-sky projections.

  40. wayne Job says:

    Small scale wind generators are fine, the American pioneer and inventor truely made excellent units. Mr Jacobs I believe was the manufacturer, one was left unattended in Antarctica for some twenty years with no problems. Perhaps these wind generators are made to a price and not a quality for all the scam merchants looking for a government hand out. I do believe that I could design one that would be mechanically reliable for a hundred years. To many fingers in pies I think.

  41. AusieDan says:

    Hi there jorgekafkazar,
    Do you understand the concept of return on investment?
    Would you like to invest your superannuation money in a wind farm?
    It probably is.

  42. Brownedoff says:

    martin brumby says:
    March 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    “So how are we going to manage in the UK ………..”

    Here is an interesting read:

    http://www.londonarray.com/wp-content/uploads/First-foundation-installed-at-London-Array.pdf

    The application for a permit was lodged on 3 June 2005, consent was given on 18 December 2006 and the first foundation monopole and transition piece was installed at position C18 on Monday 7 March 2011.

    Progress can be monitored weekly at:

    http://www.londonarray.com/environment/shipping-navigation-fishing/

    They only way this can succeed is out of the wallet of the poor electricity bill payer.

    So, 635MW installed by the end of 2012 and then the juice from this folly will cost £80/MWh compared to about £12/MWh from a proper coal-fired power station. (IIRC – can anybody give a link to support these figures?)

    Off-shore wind is obviously a very lucrative scam for lucky promotors as “Firms jump on UK offshore wind bandwagon”, see:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/09/23/us-britain-offshorewind-idUSTRE68M10Z20100923

    Trebles all round.

  43. oldseadog says:

    GBees;
    They’ll be using vegetable oil……….. .

  44. Bryan A says:

    Many of the Non-spinning turbines aren’t necessarily non-operable. Like so many generation sites throughout California, some of the capacity is held in reserve. Some of the Hydroelectric turbines at Dam Powerhouses also sit idle during portions of the day. This is often the case because demand levels don’t support 100% utilization of every source of generation. This also serves to prolong the useful life of generators. The time to worry about unused generation capacity is on days that peak demand warrants the possibility of rolling blackouts and generation capacity is only operating at 70%. This would be a problem. But 60 or 70% or even 50% operating isn’t unheard of for most days.

  45. Jack Hughes says:

    The UK prime minister’s father-in-law owns 8 windmills near Scunthorpe. Very rare to see all 8 turning.

  46. Oatley says:

    I, too have driven through the pass above Palm Springs and have seen the numbers of idled blades. From an electric industry perspective, here’s the other inconvenient truth. Capacity from a wind turbine is heavily discounted by the local RTO, because the engineers KNOW that wind…well, it’s poetically fickle. Also, that wind blows mostly at night….when electricity demand is at its lowest. And what about the hottest peak day of the year? Yep, you got it, usually the wind ain’t blowing. There are some very smart people in utility dispatch centers pulling their hair out these days trying to integrate wind into the grid and are having a devil of a time. Cheers.

  47. Smoking Frog says:

    Lots of people, including me, have seen non-operating wind turbines, and I’ll bet lots of them, like me, foolishly thought they just happened to be seeing an unusual situation.

  48. Gareth Phillips says:

    To be fair you would have to compare the percentage of wind turbines not working at any time, with the amount of downtime or non-functioning of other energy resources. I suspect any energy generating system is not operating at 100% at all times. Any one have any useful stats?

  49. Jimbo says:

    Is the UK government also finally dealing with reality? Are we slowly seeing a return to sanity?

    BBC – 18 March 2011
    UK solar panel subsidies slashed
    “The UK government has proposed cuts of up to 70% to the feed in tariff for large scale solar energy production.

    The proposal would be implemented on the 1 August, reducing payments to farmers or owners of large commercial buildings.

    The industry has reacted with anger to the proposal.

    And investors have warned that cutting the scheme just a year after it was created will deter further investment in renewable energy.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12790613

  50. Zorro says:

    What many are not aware of is that to function modern turbines must have live current going to them, making them useless in a blackout. Last year I drove through a huge wind farm in Southern Spain. Approximately half the turbines were dead, even though there was a very useful breeze blowing. They are next to useless as a power source. Lots of info here

    http://palmerstonnorth.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html

  51. EternalOptimist says:

    We did a road trip last september.
    we flew into San diego from the UK then drove to alaska via yellowstone , so I was impressed by your 700 mile in one day stint Anthony.
    We saw the beauty of your country, and some breathtaking panoramas. The one sight we will never forget, with horror, was driving into SF past the total eyesore that you have shown above
    it made my eyes bleed

    EO

  52. M White says:

    Irony – maintenance too dangerous when wind is blowing???

  53. M White says:

    And if you think wind turbines are difficult and expensive to maintain.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/8387558/Worlds-largest-tidal-turbine-project-in-Sound-of-Islay.html

    “World’s largest tidal turbine project in Sound of Islay”

  54. Natsman says:

    And so the stumps of defunct windmills slowly disintegrate, are assimilated in the soil, buried, rotting, and miliions of years later…

    …we have COAL!!

    Hurrah, dig it up, burn it, generate real electricity! Way to go!

  55. SandyInDerby says:

    martin brumby says:
    March 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Agree 100%

  56. BuckeyeBob says:

    Another unmentioned unintended consequence of wind mills is the slaughter of birds flying into the blades. In Palm Springs I read once that 100 golden eagles are killed yearly. And the windmill farms in northern Germany on the Baltic kill 100’s of thousands of migrating birds every year. Northern Indiana is another area that has a blight of these monstrosities. It all comes back to what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the Sun doesn’t shine. Alternative energy sources have a very limited use but cannot be used to power a modern tecnological society.

  57. fenbeagle says:

    Well I’m sure we’ll all learn to love them anyway, given time. We all have to do our bit, to save the planet, after all. (Think of the the children.)

    http://fenbeagleblog.wordpress.com/

  58. Anthony, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the cost of maintaining these windmills. Its a simple fact that the Us & UK failed to get an early lead in this “industry” because they totally misunderstood the criticality of reliability and maintenance … or perhaps more apt, the way “development” in the UK and US got funded took no account of reliability seeing these as “technology” not engineering.

    In contrast the successful countries adopted (sometimes by mistake) funding regimes that concentrated on reliability … mainly by having real customers and not idiots in governments handing out grants for photo opportunities for government ministers.

    The real dividing line between success and failure in this market was the terminiology.

    Successful countries call them “windmill”, “vindmolle”
    Pathetic failures like the US and UK call them “wind turbines”.

    I think the difference is that those that call them windmills see them as part of a long development of utilising the wind for mundane tasks. Those that call them “windturbines” see them as some new wonder miracle technology to “save the planet” much in the same way nuclear was sold to the same gullible electorates.

  59. Lex says:

    I am glad I am living in the Netherlands. We tear unefficient windmill parks down (Irene Vorrink Windmill park, near Lelystad, built 1997) even when the amortisation period is 20 years.
    Then we erect new windmills, hoping these will be more efficient.

  60. Dave Springer says:

    The problem is mostly a lack of qualified maintenance technicians and scheduling of cranes required for service.

    You don’t keep these things spinning when a maintenance interval elapses. You stop it and wait until the maintenance can be performed because repair is hideously expensive especially the gearbox which is about 20% of the cost of the whole enchilada. So you don’t keep them spinning when they’re due for periodic maintenance.

    I don’t know about California but in Texas (which has 3x more wind power than any other state) wind power is not heavily subsidized and power from them is sold on the open market by bid/ask. Wind power is considerably more expensive than natural gas and is on a par with conventional coal (without subsidy) and somewhat less expensive than nuclear. However because wind is fickle there’s often not a good match between supply & demand. No more than 30% of potential capacity is actually sold. So having 20% of the turbines down for periodic maintenance at any one time is not much of a problem and isn’t out-of-line compared with other types of electrical generation – less than 20% downtime is excellent for a nuclear reactor.

  61. kcrucible says:

    What basis do you have for saying that? Windfarm leases call for removal of all equipment and foundations and restoration to approximate original grade

    Probably the idea that these windfarm companies aren’t going to be around long enough for the windfarms to merely expire their leases. The companies are likely to be long gone and bankrupt. Bankrupt companies don’t tend to spend money on these obligations… creditors first.

  62. etudiant says:

    The only reliable permanently spinning machinery are the turbines in hydro generators.
    They can work because they run at near constant speed and are very robustly built.
    Wind turbines have to be built very light and the load fluctuates constantly, always stressing the machinery. Time to failure is correspondingly low. That should have been factored into the cost estimates, but may have been neglected.
    The gap in performance has to be made up by subsidy. When that declines, the economics suffer. This is a common problem with “green” power, it is not close to viable at prevailing prices. What is disappointing is that the gap does not seem to be narrowing very much.

  63. fenbeagle says:

    Scottish Sceptic
    I think those that call them Wind Mills, are hopelessly confused about what a mill does. And those that call them wind turbines, are hopeless optimists.

  64. fenbeagle says:

    ….and those that call them wind ‘farms’ don’t live in the countryside and know what a farm is, or are deliberately trying to ‘sell’ the idea, that it’s ok to industrialize all our countryside.

  65. Bill Gannon says:

    John Kehr says, If the greenies manage to kill nuclear, fossil fuel and hydro (trust me, they are trying because of the impact to fish reproduction) and we have to depend on wind and solar, then we will soon be back to a pre-industrial society. BINGO. Give the man a cigar, that’s what the green religion fruit cakes want, including their current dictator Obama.

  66. Claude Harvey says:

    Re: Gareth Phillips says:
    March 20, 2011 at 2:40 am

    To be fair you would have to compare the percentage of wind turbines not working at any time, with the amount of downtime or non-functioning of other energy resources. I suspect any energy generating system is not operating at 100% at all times. Any one have any useful stats?

    You are correct. All utilities must “chase the load” in a synchronous electric power system. Typically in the U.S., the “base load” is maintained by the most thermally efficient coal-fired steamers, nukes and large scale combined-cycle-natural-gas-turbines running flat out 24/7. Then the increases or decreases in demand are “chased” up and down with easily throttled hydro, some pumped storage, less efficient gas peaking turbines, some oil fired units and scheduled power exchanges with neighboring utilities that have different demand profiles.

    Unfortunately for the utilities and rate payers in the U.S., utilities are required to accept whatever output wind and solar can generate whenever they can generate it (except during system emergencies). That randomness of renewable power output, especially with wind, actually compounds problems with the delicate dance utilities must perform each day to match generation with load. Since wind and solar are effectively “base loaded” from a utility perspective, their capacity factors should appropriately be compared with other base load plants for purposes of establishing economic value. That yields less than 30% for for the best wind farms compared with north of 85% (all in, including refueling and other maintenance downtime) for coal and nuclear. Base loaded combined-cycle-gas-turbine plants typically run well north of 90% capacity factors (all in).

  67. The real concern about wind energy is its Capacity Value (not Capacity Factor).

    The CV of wind is well less than 10%. The CV of nuclear (for comparson) is about 99%.

    The soundbite: “Wind energy is a high-cost low-benefit solution.”

    See EnergyPresentation.Info for details.

  68. kuhnkat says:

    Dave Springer,

    first, Texas wind is considered to be good for only about 9% of its rated output meaning that in 2007 it only produced 1% of Texas peak power needs.

    http://www.masterresource.org/2009/08/texas-wind-power-the-numbers-versus-the-hype-despite-mandates-1-2-share-by-2014/

    As far as your statement that Texas wind does not get substantial subsidy, I must assume that you have been indulging in some type of product that produces non-rational cognition:

    http://www.masterresource.org/2009/08/texas-wind-power-the-numbers-versus-the-hype-despite-mandates-1-2-share-by-2014/

    More on Federal subsidies/credits/handouts:

    http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US13F

    Basically wind, even in Texas, is heavily subsidized, almost useless and is probably having the exact effect the envirowhackjobs desire.

  69. BlondieBC says:

    Twenty-Five percent of the turbines being down at any given times seems to be on the low-end of the expected range. What percentage of nuclear plants, fighter aircraft, or merchant ships are at sea at any given time?

    The expectation that wind turbines would work almost all the time is more a result of marketing campaign and lobbyist, than what any rational engineer or mechanic would tell you.

  70. richard verney says:

    Anthony,

    I am glad that you posted pictures of the derelict and decaying windmills since this is the future of wind energy. Unfortunately, in 2o to 30 years much of the most beautiful landscape will be blighted by these ugly scrap yards.

    Windmills are not being erected to reduce CO2 emissions. To date, not a single conventional power station has been closed as a result of all the windfarm built. Windfarms are not being set up because they produce dependable and reliable energy. We know that they cannot produce reliable energy due to the intermitent nature of wind.
    Windmills are not being erected because they produce cheap energy. The cost of energy production is many tomes that of coal, gas or nuclear.

    Windfarms only exist because of subsidies. Once these run out, windfarms will fall into decay and no one will have the money to de-commission them.

    Gradually, due to the energy policy being adopted by western developed nations, their energy prices are soaring in comparison to the developing nations such as china, india and latin america. The effect of this is to make western industry increasing uncompetitive and this will mean losing market share and increasing deficits on the balance of trade (imports/exports). Gradually western countries will become poorer.

    The effect of this is that when it becomes apparent that either (i) CO2 does not drive temperatures/climate so there is no need to drastically reduce/restrict CO2 emissions, or (ii) that these windfarms have no practical effect on reducing CO2 emissions, or (iii) that renewable energy is so unreliable that it leads to rolling blackouts and needs to be replaced with something more reliable, Governments will inevitable cut back on the subsidies. Energy firms will no longer have spare cash to decommision these beasts and since they do not provide chaep energy and maintenance costs are high, there will be no commercial interest in keeping them in good repair. Accordingly, unless the Government actually pays for the decommissiing (by which I mean raises tax from its citizens to pay this cost), the country side will be littered with decaying windmills.

    I anticipate that it may be somewhat ironic that the citizen will have been taxed to erect these unnecessary and wasteful structures, and then they will be taxed again to remove them once the Government can no longer cover up what a folly this venture has become.

  71. the_Butcher says:

    All that metal & plastic being wasted…

  72. old44 says:

    AusieDan says:
    March 20, 2011 at 1:34 am
    Hi there jorgekafkazar,
    Do you understand the concept of return on investment?
    Would you like to invest your superannuation money in a wind farm?
    It probably is.

    The Australian Union run superannuation funds have sizeable investments in “renewable energy” Juliar is looking after them.

  73. Marion says:

    martin brumby says:
    March 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm
    “The people who promote BigWind (not least Buff Huhne and his predecessor Eddie Millipede) are either breathtakingly incompetent (the greenies and politicians) or blatantly dishonest (the companies who build the wretched things)”.

    Absolutely agree but I’d include politicians in the latter description as well as the former.
    First Minister Alex Salmond has increased Scotland’s target from 50% (because “urgent action is needed to cut emissions which cause climate change”) to 80% of energy from renewables by 2020 (Something I reckon he can only achieve by wrecking our economy). Yet Alex Salmond was also the guy who commented when his Minister for Transport and Climate Change resigned
    “At the end of the day, you know, no man can tether time nor tide, and certainly you can’t control the elements. I am very sad that a decent man, a competent minister has been forced to resignation because of the extremities of the climate”!

    http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/climate-change-minister-resigns-because-of-the-extremities-of-the-climate/

    The target for renewables was increased no doubt on the basis of the many thousands of wind turbines that are planned for ‘offshore’ as well as onshore development although it seems that ‘offshore’ can be as close as 4km from the coastline. (Apparently ‘offshore’ doesn’t operate under the same planning restrictions as onshore.)

    The Scottish Environmental Assessment of the Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Farms has concluded
    “the Draft Plan would have major beneficial impacts on climatic factors as a result of the role of operational wind farms in the long term in reducing greenhouse gas emissions” .

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/03/17170331/7

    (Page 9)
    Needless to say they don’t inform us as to how they arrive at this conclusion other than to use such meaningless terms as “maximising the contribution” and “expected to generate a significant amount”. There is a total lack of any real analysis.
    Nor do I recognise their estimate of negative responses to the proposals as over third to a half – of the many responses I viewed on line my estimate would be closer to 95%.

    With the enthusiasm for turbines declining somewhat elsewhere in Europe it seems that Salmond is desperately trying to almost singlehandedly achieve the EU target for them of 20% energy from Renewables by 2020.
    I can only assume that by wrecking our economy, countryside and coastline in such a manner for no real gain our senior politicians are simply pursuing ambitions to secure a place on the EU/UN political gravy train.

  74. John S says:

    One day windmill designers will wise up and put the gearbox, generator, and voltage step-up equipment on the ground, and use a 200′ drive shaft from the windmill to the ground.

    I know the difficulties of delivering that much torque through 200′ of drive shaft, but in the long run it may be much cheaper when maintenance is taken into consideration.

  75. DirkH says:

    P. Solar says:
    March 19, 2011 at 11:57 pm
    “There again probably no one would be stupid enough to build an off-shore wind farm in fault line susceptible to have a mag 9 event. They save those sites for clusters of nuclear reactors. The other difference worth if you want to make stupid comments is that if you have an oil leak on the gear box of wind turbine , you don’t need to evacuate half a million people. ”

    Well, how many people do you have to evacuate because of wind farms. Let’s say we want to produce the output of Fukushima, all operational, that’s 5GW, with an onshore wind farm made of wind turbines rated at 2 MW peak capacity, running at 20% load factor. Remember that most of the time they’ll be far below that average and some of the time up to 5 times higher than that average. So, if the average would do we would get along with 12,500 of these wind turbines, but it won’t; so we’ll double that number to 25,000 and hope we don’t get a long lull.

    We can place about 200 of these on 80 km^2
    ( http://www.thebioenergysite.com/news/5151/capacity-expanded-at-whitelee-wind-farm ).

    25,000 of them will thus take 10,000 km^2. Considering an average population density of 200/km^2 (That’s a typical European, or US East coast density), we will have to evacuate – or relocate – only 2 million people.

    And we’ll get an energy supply that still doesn’t work all of the time.

  76. DirkH says:

    Claude Harvey says:
    March 20, 2011 at 4:40 am
    “You are correct. All utilities must “chase the load” in a synchronous electric power system. ”

    In the EUSSR, the load chases you! ;-)

  77. Dr. Coyote says:

    Ask any civil engineer: politicians love to cut ribbons in front of new bridges, but are loathe to allocate money for long-term maintenance. Same principle applies here.

  78. John K. Sutherland says:

    One should collect all of the dead bodies of birds from around these sites and send them to Greenpeace, or just leave them inside the doors of their offices, in their front yards, or drop them off on their protest vessels. Almost as good as fish left on the engine block of a car for a few days!

  79. red432 says:

    You miss the significance of the structures as religious symbols. They should make them of more durable materials, like concrete, so they will endure like the pyramids of
    Egypt or the great crucifixes of South America.

  80. Clive says:

    There are a few folks from Alberta here where turbines are a growing cancerous blight. If you want to check the output of our system you can do so at the AESO site. The output is updated every one or two minutes. http://ets.aeso.ca/

    On the upper left side, select “Current” and then select “Current Supply & Demand” and “Go”. As I write, wind projects are producing 10 MW out of a total wind capacity of 777 MW. The highest I have seen is ~600MW…but that is rare.

    AESO claims the wind projects work at 30 to 35 percent of capacity. Bah!

  81. PuterMan says:

    P.Solar said:>>There again probably no one would be stupid enough to build an off-shore wind farm in fault line susceptible to have a mag 9 event. They save those sites for clusters of nuclear reactors.<<

    I would just like to observe that whilst I agree that building a bunch of nukes right by a subduction zone is somewhat crazy the "men in white coats that make guesses" considered that the particular area was not likely to have an earthquake of that magnitude due to the known length of the fault.

    On the assumption that the owners of the plants took advice form these scientists then I believe that like with so many other trouble we have the blame lies at the feet of the advice given. (Along probably with greed over subsidies – if there were any)

  82. Pamela Gray says:

    Publicly funded jobs are never worth an investment of my taxes, short term or long term. Green jobs are a prime example of government sponsored boondoggles. So why do we continue, liberals and conservatives alike, vote folks in who promise us a better future? Bush started the bailout crap. Obama extended it into subsidies and stimulus funds.

    I will vote for whoever has the guts to tell me, “If you want a better future, it is up to you.” I would love that ticket. Can you imagine a campaign around these planks, “I promise to go to Washington to NOT make a better future. I promise to NOT change one damn thing just so you can pocket stimulus dollars. I promise to put a mirror in your face whenever you come complaining about a lack of a job. And just to show you I mean business, I promise to remove all federal government “programs”, guaranteed loans, restrictions and subsidies related to you developing an industry that creates jobs. And I promise you I will not fund one damned government job, including my own, unless it is with your referendum approval.”

    In this era of budget woes and a tanked economy, I think it appropriate to declare a national emergency in reverse. Not one with additional restrictions (as is the usual case of national emergencies) but one where the normal restrictions of creating jobs are lifted.

  83. fenbeagle says:

    red432
    …..’They should endure, like the pyramids’……….It’s ok red, the foundations probably will. Particularly when they are built on 30 meter deep piles, 8 to a turbine, as proposed here on the Lincolnshire Fens.

  84. mrpkw says:

    Does it matter which direction these spin? I thought I saw one spinning “backwards”.

  85. jrwakefield says:

    Yet in Ontario we push ahead with thousands of wind turbines. This is what we will look like in 10-15 years. Total waste of money, energy and materials for no gain.

  86. Hans Kelp says:

    After seeing such horrible things going on with the windmills, how can anyone recommend bying and running such miserable crap?! You just hit it big again Anthony Watts. Thank you, I´ll send this to my friends and foes and maybe there will be some hope og changing some thoughts about windparks…

  87. sunsettommy says:

    I have seen the Wildhorse wind farm several times a year when I visit my parents in Ellensburg.I drive right by them on the way up the long hill from Vantage Wa.

    There is also another wind farm just east of Ellensburg as well.I was there just 3 months ago.It is very new looking and big!

    There is also another wind farm in the hills,to the south of Ellensburg.

    This region is just down slope from the cascade range,therefore gets a reliable regular wind rose,most of the year.

    But the maintenance is going to be a lot of work,due to sheer number they have standing.

    There is also a wind farm just south of town of Kennewick.They move all the time since the wind rose there is very reliable.

    I have no choice but see these landscape blights everyday.

    All these mill farms combined still does not produce the amount of power production of the single N2 reactor at Hanford Wa. It produces enough power to power a city the size of Seattle.In a small area of land.

  88. Doug S says:

    Bryan A says:
    March 20, 2011 at 1:58 am

    “Many of the Non-spinning turbines aren’t necessarily non-operable. Like so many generation sites throughout California, some of the capacity is held in reserve.”

    Interesting point Brian but this seems like a problem in coordination between the different generation plants on the grid. For example, I would think that if wind could contribute more power to the grid then it should be utilized and Nat gas fired, hydro and other generating facilities should be scaled back. Since wind is currently a “use it or loose it” capacity I would think that wind should be operated at 100% output at all times. I bet the efficiency figures that wind advocates use to “sell” wind power don’t reflect the real world realities of grid management and I bet the down time for maintenance on turbines is grossly understated.

  89. John Brookes says:

    Hmmm. All those dead birds. What a shame that there aren’t any pictures of piles of dead birds in this post….

    We had piles of dead birds near Esperance in Western Australia recently – thousands of them. Turns out that they died because of lead dust, coming from trainloads of lead headed for Esperance to be shipped overseas.

    But its not as sexy to be killed by lead dust as it is to be killed by a wind turbine, is it?

  90. Craig Loehle says:

    I am betting there is a subsidy for buying/installing them, but no such subsidy for fixing them. Priceless.

  91. Chris D. says:

    Wow. There is a whole numbered series of vids on YouTube titled “Life With Industrial Wind Turbines in Wisconsin” that is a fascinating watch. The noise is an obvious issue, but I had never considered that the light flicker would be.

    This is the first one:

  92. Olen says:

    Given enough time a monkey at a typewriter will write the great novel and environmentalists will come up with a good idea.

  93. Kevin says:

    Eh. Normally I’m in complete agreement with WUWT. But that video showed a surprising amount of windmills spinning, imo. I would have expected ~20% to be offline at any given time. It was much less than that.

    REPLY: Look carefully at the last couple of seconds in the video. – Anthony

  94. John Norris says:

    Fun footage of a wind turbine failure:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/dborup#p/u/8/CqEccgR0q-o

  95. juanslayton says:

    jorgekafkazar: Unfortunately, the wind doesn’t always blow, and, when it does, the utilities don’t always need the electricity!

    Wind generation is supplemental power, intended to displace conventional sources. The only circumstances under which the utilities don’t need the electricity is when all conventional power has already been displaced. Has this ever happened?

  96. John F. Hultquist says:

    Phillip Bratby says:
    March 20, 2011 at 12:23 am
    ~~~~~ John F. Hultquist says:
    ~~~~~ March 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Here is the project (about 12 miles east of me) and from the link provided are the characteristics of the foundations.

    “The Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, located in Central Washington, is Puget Sound Energy’s second wind-powered electric generation facility. It is also the utility’s largest wind farm with 149 turbines.
    Wholly owned by PSE, Wild Horse has the capacity to generate up to 273 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Construction began in October 2005, and was completed in December 2006, with a 22-turbine, 44 MW expansion completed in 2009.”

    http://www.pse.com/energyEnvironment/energysupply/pages/EnergySupply_ElectricityWind.aspx?tab=3&chapter=5

    Each tower foundation reaches a minimum depth of 25 ft and a maximum of 32 ft depending on bedrock depth and takes an average of 100 to 260 cubic yards of concrete.
    Each foundation requires 120 anchor bolts that span from the surface of the ground to the bottom of the foundation. A single 28 ft anchor bolt weighs approximately 150 lbs.

  97. kellys_eye says:

    I suspect a worldwide survey of all wind farms would produce some interesting statistics – especially regarding inefficiency – but it beggars belief that anyone repsonsible for the creation of such farms would knowingly proceed with historical and technical facts at hand.
    The results of such a survey should be made compulsory reading material for anyone (especially politicians) who have any responsibility to the public.
    Zero subsidy is the only way forward – any workable system should be self-financing else shown to be the folly that it really is.

  98. DirkH says:

    juanslayton says:
    March 20, 2011 at 8:44 am
    “Wind generation is supplemental power, intended to displace conventional sources. The only circumstances under which the utilities don’t need the electricity is when all conventional power has already been displaced. Has this ever happened?”

    Sort of. In Germany, during times of low demand and high wind power production, the prize at the energy exchange goes negative, and owners of pumped storage are in that situation paid for taking the energy. This does happen. Conventional power plants will in that situation try to feed in as little as they can, as they will get a negative prize for their energy. Wind power producers are guaranteed to get the feed in tariff no matter what the current bulk prize for electricity at the exchange is so they don’t have to care. They are Alinsky Machines (in that they create and exploit a crisis).

  99. DirkH says:

    Furthermore, under the German system, the more the wind power producers can increase the power crisis, the more they profit relative to the conventional power sources – the more often they manage to push prizes into negative territory, the worse the economics of conventional power sources must get; and thus, wind turbines function as a parasite of the system. At a certain point, the parasitic load will destroy the system; we will see that in a nation-wide blackout.

    The grid managers try to prevent this by e-mailing and faxing the wind power producers when such a crisis arrives; and for now, enough of them voluntarily throttle their production to prevent a grid failure. So the parasites are sane enough not to kill their host for now.

  100. Jim K says:

    No one commented on the oil in the dead fans. Each one has about 250 gallons of gear oil, hydraulic oil, brake oil and grease. Even small one have 90 gallon in just the gear box. Some farms have 10-15,000 gallons for maintainance.

  101. Roguewave says:

    It could be worse than mere inoperable Wind Turbines –

  102. Stephen Rasey says:

    On August 16, 2010, between 3pm and 4pm, Texas had record electrical usage.
    Texas has the largest collection of wind power installed of any state.
    Yet Wind Power contributed only 1% of total supply.

    For the third time this month, Texas’ main grid operator says the state hit a power usage record as high temperatures led to 64,805 megawatts of power usage between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
    ….
    Wind output averaged approximately 680 MW during the peak hour – or 1 percent of the total load. ERCOT currently has 9,317 MW of installed wind capacity, the highest of any state in the country.

    From: http://www.ercot.com/news/press_releases/2010/nr-08-16-10

    http://energyandenvironmentblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/08/texas-broke-electricity-demand.html

    Part of that wind farm is visible in the 40 mi stretch on I-20 between Sweetwater and Abiline, TX. Miles and Miles of them. Thousands. They Yielding only 7% of installed wind capacity. Only 1 % of total load.

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/394389

  103. Jason Bair says:

    Why maintain them when you can just build more with gov’t subsidies?

  104. ron from Texas says:

    Believe it or not, I am an electrician. I have operated a bucket truck to fix pole lights up to 60 feet. And I have had to free-climb a 90 foot stadium pole light (without the proper equipment) to work on those lights. But at least I didn’t have to worry about a feather brake failing. It takes a special bucket truck to maintain the highlines around here averaging about 100 feet to 120 feet. And it takes a special breed of daredevil to handle that kind of height. I’ev known guys who are shaky on anything taller than an 8 foot ladder. The point is, there are a few guys that can work that high. And they don’t work for free. The safety considerations are different, too. Climbing a stadium pole light with pegs no wider than your shoes (that’s not an exaggeration) requires a mountain climbing rig on a zip-line with an ascender clip made for metal cable. (one way clip.)

    It’s not for everyone. When I was on top of the stadium light, my helper tried to climb up there to help me. Well. those poles sway (they have to.) He got up about halfway and I could hear him. “Oh, hell no!” I knew what was happening, as I have been there, myself. I told him to immediately climb back down while he still could. It was July in Texas, at about 100 F. Sweating profusely, he could slip and fall. Or, lock up entirely and not be able to let go. And we would have had to call the fire department to rescue him. And then get me off the pole.

    In addition, is the logistical problem of getting materials up, and then down, such structures. Have you ever been in even a 60′ bucket truck as a storm system is approaching and the gust front kicks up? How do you get down from a wind turbine that is twice the height. Who’s going to pay for the increased insurance for this line of work?

    Our problem, too, is that we have inadquate storage of electricity. A superbattery would solve the problem. But that would involve harvesting other items from the environment, which the greenies wouldn’t like, even though it would result in decreased power generation as we get better at storing power.

    So, even though I am an electrician and have worked some of the lower heights adequately, I would look at those turbines and ask, “What part of “Hell, no” do you not understand?” It’s one thing to create that “green” job. It’s another thing to find someone who can mentally handle it. I’ve been in a bucket truck when one of the outriggers, re-settled, sending me bouncing a few feet up and down. At 120 feet, that would be disastrous and more than likely, fatal.

  105. climatebeagle says:

    When I first moved to the SF Bay Area in 87/88 the Altamont Pass Wind Farm was an impressive site. Now, it has a run down abandoned look with many of the windmills not turning. I find it a depressing sight.

  106. PaulH says:

    The good folks over at The Resilient Earth blog had an article about similar wind turbine maintenance issues (and other cost overruns):

    http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/dying-breeze

  107. Paul C says:

    From within the previously posted document

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

    This is a large document,but mcst of your questions are answered within.
    In regards to delivering carcass’s to Green Peace……I’m in…when should we start.
    There are many more examples.
    Moderator shorten as you see fit.

    “Canadian wind turbine kills 10 birds and
    bats a day”. The first study of the 86 wind
    turbines found they killed 45 birds and 45
    bats over a two-month period (May-June
    2009). A second report (covering July-
    December 2009) documented 602 bird and
    1,270 bat fatalities, or about three bird kills
    and seven bat kills a day. A third study (of
    the farm’s first eight months of operation)
    uncovered 1,962 bird and bat deaths, for a
    daily average of eight a day. Thirty-three
    different bird species were included in the
    fatality report.

    A recent study in Klickitat County
    Waindicates 6,500 birds and 3,000 bats are
    killed annually in the two states – although
    the number of actual deaths may be much
    higher as reported figures are based on
    number of carcases found and reported.

    “Portland school turns off wind turbine to
    halt seabird slaughter”. A £20,000 6kW
    wind turbine has been turned off after taking
    the lives of at least 14 birds in six months.
    The manufacturer stated one fatality per
    year. Pupils reported to be upset when the
    birds were killed at lunchtimes and
    playtimes.

    “Wind farm kills Taiwanese goats”. BBC
    article reports over 400 goats have died
    since 8 wind turbines were installed close to
    their grazings. The report suggests that
    they died of exhaustion from sleep
    deprivation caused by turbine noise.

    Wind Turbines to blame for bat deaths :
    study” Sudden air pressure changes around
    wind turbines is likely behind the large
    numbers of migratory bats found dead in
    southern Alberta, according to a new
    University of Calgary study. The two-year
    study found 90 per cent of the studied bats
    found dead below turbines near Pincher
    Creek suffered severe injuries to their
    respiratory systems consistent with a
    sudden drop in air pressure that occurs near
    the turbine blades.

    “Judith Gap Wind Farm taking toll on bats,
    birds” An estimated 1,200 bats, most of
    them probably just passing through
    Montana, were killed after striking wind
    turbines at the Judith Gap Wind Farm
    between July 2006 and May 2007,
    according to a post-construction bird and
    bat survey. The number surprised
    Invenergy, which owns the farm, as well as
    government and private wildlife experts. “It’s
    killing 1,200 bats a year and that’s a lot
    more than anybody anticipated,” said Janet
    Ellis of Montana Audubon, a bird
    conservation group. …The study estimates
    that 406 birds, or 4.52 birds per turbine,
    were killed during the study period.

    “Windmills increase raptor deaths; Eagles,
    owls, migratory songbirds caught in blades”
    Long before wind turbines sprouted on
    Altamont Pass, it was home to the highest
    density of golden eagles in the world and
    their major breeding area in the United
    States. Almost as soon as the first turbine
    started rotating, the bird carcasses started
    piling up: Golden eagles, burrowing owls,
    red-tailed hawks, other raptors, western
    meadowlarks and migrating songbirds. …On
    Feb. 12, an interim report on raptor mortality
    during 2005-2007 was released. Instead of
    a reduction in raptor mortality, the study
    found deaths had risen except for that
    among golden eagles, which had fallen to
    the sustainable level of 49 deaths per year.
    Burrowing owl mortality suffered the
    greatest increase – more than 300 percent –
    and the overall raptor deaths almost
    doubled.
    “Green Power Is Black Hole For Rare
    Eagles”. Australia’s biggest wind farm in
    north-west Tasmania has become a “black
    hole” for endangered wedge-tailed eagles.
    The 62-tower Woolnorth farm has killed up
    to 18 of the island’s endangered subspecies
    of the wedge-tail in its giant rotor blades.
    Despite their acute vision, the eagles are
    failing to pick out turbine blades with tips
    that can rotate at 300 kmh, according to Eric
    Woehler, chairman of Birds Tasmania.
    “Eagles evolved in a landscape without wind
    farms,” Dr Woehler said. “They just don’t
    see the blades. The researchers there are
    finding that they are dying not only in the
    downsweep, but in the upsweep of the
    blades
    A study of wind farms in West Virginia and
    Pennsylvania estimates as many as 2,600
    bats were killed by the whirling blades
    during a six-week period during 2004.
    Researchers estimate that between 13-
    hundred and nearly two-thousand bats were
    actually killed in that period at the
    Mountaineer Wind Energy site in Tucker
    County. The study estimates another 400 to
    600 were killed at the Meyersdale Wind
    Energy Center in Pennsylvania. The site has
    20 wind towers. Between August First and
    September 13th, 2004, researchers with the
    Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative found
    765 dead bats on the ground at the
    Mountaineer site, which has 44 wind towers.

  108. P Gosselin says:

    I’d imaginr that maintenance personnel don’t work for cheap, nor should they. It’s dangerous hard work. I often wonder about the operating lifetime. A conventional nuclear or coal power plant can easily have a lifetime of 40+ years. I think wind generators will have to be replaced probably 2 or 3 times in that period = $$$$$ and no cents (sense).

  109. P Gosselin says:

    Ron from Tex
    And they are getting even bigger. In Europe the offshore ones are up to 500 feet tall. And the North Sea is no friendly place either.

  110. Gherkin says:

    I’ve personally seen that windfarm in Hawaii that you have pictured. It was my first exposure to an actual windfarm (I live in Southeastern US, not many around here). I was shocked to see it almost completely inoperable in the face of those tradewinds. I figure if they can’t make it profitable there, where the wind is powerful and constant, and on an island where -everything- is more expensive than the mainland, it won’t work anywhere.

  111. RockyRoad says:

    I predict within 5 years, there will be a world-wide effort to remove all those noisy, bird-killing monstrosities they call wind turbines. Cold fusion will have made them obsolete for the next million years–or more.

    I love progress, especially when it cleans up the environment.

  112. John from CA says:

    Great video Anthony,
    I counted 14 stalled windmills from your video. 14 may not seem like a lot from the ugly and noisy landscape killer but it begs a few questions.

    • what is the perceived ROEI for each installation
    • what is the true cost of each installation
    • what is the expected lifespan
    • were the stalled windmills in an intended mode and if so how frequently are they taken offline
    • given 7+ years of operation, how does the ROEI compare to other “green” approaches like geothermal in CA

    I ran across a really sad statement on CNBC last Friday. Apparently, there isn’t any Sillicon (chips) being produced from Sillicon Valley because State of California politics are so foolish that they’ve driven every company to other States and other countries.

    The tragic windmill farms appear to be yet another obvious example of the tragedy in Sacramento.

    Just how bad do you think it’ll get before California taxpayers wake up?

  113. Robert M. Marshall says:

    I live in Washington and frequently, purposely drive the Columbia Gorge just to have my breath taken away with the magnificent views in every direction. Now, the most beautiful basalt cliffs and hilly fields with lava jutting through the grasses are strewn with hidious new bright white windmills by the hundreds if not thousands. Evening drives that once showed off the night sky now glitters with the flashing “enviro-wacko” red light district. The pastures, hillsides and ridges are scarred with access roads and new distribution towers.
    at this rate of development, we’ll soon see Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and what’sleft of Mt.St. Helens draped in these eyesores. Nothing is sacred.
    Environmentalists decry the dams that have, in some cases, provided reliable, cheap power for decades and more while making the Columbia navigable and safe from treacherous flooding. I was recently advised that my electric bill would increase (I believe it was 6.8%) due to the necessity to buy “back-up power” an premium rates to make up for the unreliability of the wind. When that power is not used to suppliment wind farm output, cheaper resources (conventional power plants) need to be idled to make room for the “backup power”.
    Did I meantion the raptors who choose the same wind blown ridges for their updrafts that keep them majestically soaring until they are whacked to the ground like so many flies?
    Here’s hoping these eyesores reach “dinosaur” status quickly.

  114. nofreewind says:

    The biggest problem is how many you need.
    A medium sized nat gas or coal plant creates 1,000 MW, almost continuously with very little downtime.
    You would need 2,700 1.5MW turbines which produce about 25% of of that 1.5Mw annually to equal the output of a 1,000 MW gas plant. And of course they create little or no energy, so you still need the gas plant.
    A 2 turbine nuclear plant near me ran 24/7 for over 365 day to produce 2400 MW all year. So you would need about 6,500 turbines to equal that output, and of course you would still need the nuclear plant.
    What is super ridiculous is the theory that there will be this enormous smart grid connecting many tens of thousands of turbines in different regions with different wind conditions and this energy will be shuffled around, complete absurdity if you understand how great the energy needs of our society are.
    And as stated above, the worst fact about the turbines is not the money or subsidies but the disgraceful environmental legacy they will leave us with in 30 years.

  115. Robertvdl says:

    And when there is no wind it looks like this

    Parque eólico La Muela 1 de 4

    Parque eólico La Muela 2 de 4

  116. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    This is what I drove through in 1988 (Altamont Pass), most of ‘em were broken.

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

    “The small turbines used at Altamont are dangerous to various raptors that hunt California Ground Squirrels in the area. 1300 raptors are killed annually, among them 70 golden eagles, which are federally protected; in total, 4700 birds are killed annually.[3]“

  117. Robertvdl says:

    If you understand Spanish this is a very good video to watch. It’s about the energy use in Spain.

    http://videos.libertaddigital.tv/2011-03-06/velocidad-petroleo-y-energia-socialista-en-debates-en-libertad-nPnuVtWQnh4.html

  118. Mike Hebb says:

    These companies must keep a log for each wind mill where output,down time and maintenance work is recorded. We just need a wiki leaks person to make it public. Then Willis or someone to run some statistics to see the real economic picture.

  119. StuS says:

    In 2006 at a cost of £100, 000 my local council erected two 6Kw wind turbines on top of a council office building “to raise awareness of renewable energy”.
    One of the turbines broke down last March and has not been repaired, the reason it seems is that the turbines produce £2078 worth of power per annum but cost £6431 in maintenance per annum.

  120. Marion says:

    Hmmmm….. interesting to compare the UK installed wind power capacity with our actual output

    View the graphs

    Capacity

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

    Output

    http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/217-low-wind-power-output-2010

    “Variability over short time scales has been much discussed, and it is now well known that low wind conditions can prevail at times of peak load over very large areas. For example, at 17.30 on the 7th of December 2010, when the 4th highest United Kingdom load of 60,050 MW was recorded, the UK wind fleet of approximately 5,200 MW was producing about 300 MW (i.e. it had a Load Factor of 5.8%). One of the largest wind farms in the United Kingdom, the 322 MW Whitelee Wind Farm was producing approximately 5 MW (i.e. Load Factor 1.6%).
    Load factor in other European countries at exactly this time was also low. The Irish wind fleet was recording a load factor of approximately 18% (261 MW/1,425 MW), Germany 3% (830MW/25,777 MW), and Denmark 4% (142 MW / 3,500 MW).4
    Such figures confirm theoretical arguments that regardless of the size of the wind fleet the United Kingdom will never be able to reduce its conventional generation fleet below peak load plus a margin of approximately 10%.”

    Nature yet again proving that she has the upper hand despite our politicians claims!

  121. Dr. Dave says:

    A few random thoughts:

    I imagine performing maintenance on a wind turbine would be very difficult on a hot summer day. If you’re in Texas and it’s 100 deg F outside, imagine what the temperature would be inside one of those turbine towers…hot enough to fry a dog’s brain.

    A future growth industry might be taking these eyesores down, performing site remediation and recycling the raw materials.

    Isn’t it ironic that “green” wind power has already killed more birds than DDT ever did?

    Good ideas and economically viable technologies do not require government subsidies. The CO2-AGW fraud provided the necessary incentive (i.e. “excuse”) for generous government subsidies to build these outlandish whirligigs. At the core of this wind power scam lays crony capitalism. NO ONE would invest in this exorbitantly expensive, grossly inefficient means to generate electricity if there hadn’t been boatloads of “free money from the government” (i.e. taxpayers) available to fund it. Aside from a few previous comments to the contrary, wind power is MUCH more expensive than power from almost any other source (other than solar). In a free market economy the technology would wither and die. This is a sure indication that is neither a “good idea” nor an economically viable technology.

    Who makes money off of wind power? Certainly the manufacturers of wind turbines do. The developers reap huge rewards in the form of tax credits, start-up subsidies and production subsidies…all paid for by the taxpayer. The landowners who lease their land make a tidy fortune. The consumer takes in the shorts by being forced to pay for artificially expensive electricity plus higher taxes to pay for the subsidies.

    Consider just the state of Texas. They have over 7,000 wind turbines. That’s a $7 billion dollar investment! The vested interests have every reason to protect their investment and their taxpayer subsidies. They are powerful enough to pressure (i.e. “buy off”) politicians to keep this scam afloat. Politicians, in exchange for campaign support, then dutifully vote to maintain the subsidies and now they’re pulling the same trick they did with ethanol. They want to mandate demand for an economically non-viable source of electricity by legislative fiat. That is, they force the consumers to buy something that’s unnecessarily expensive and then pay the taxes to subsidize it. Worse yet, there’s no good reason for wind power to even exist (i.e. the AGW issue is moot). Certain special interests make a LOT of money and the consumers and taxpayers foot the bill.

    In many respects wind power functions almost exactly like ethanol. It’s an expensive solution to a non-problem. It distorts the market. It’s inefficient. It benefits a relatively (politically influential) few. It provides absolutely no ecological or environmental benefit. It artificially inflates costs. Taxpayers and consumers are forced (by legislation) to pay for it and subsidize it. Without government imposed mandates and subsidies both industries would collapse.

    One final note. Just as ethanol production is ultimately limited by our need for food and a finite amount of arable land, wind power my ultimately be limited by the availability of neodymium (for generator magnets) and the availability of “airy” land.

  122. Staffan Lindström says:

    We need Don Quichote back… Coincidentally SWR2 runs Saverio Mercadente’s opera “Don Chisciotte alle nozze de Gamaccio” … right now… And don’t let Sancho Pansa tell DQ the windmills of our time are not giants….

  123. Ted says:

    Robert M. Marshall says:
    March 20, 2011 at 11:00 am
    Hi Robert.
    I live in Vancouver, Canada.
    My first trip to the Columbia Gorge was on a fun summer ski trip to Mt Hood in 1975. I was in awe of the beautiful gorge and ridges. In 1980 I discovered small board windsurfing and over the years spent countless times windsurfing ,hiking and mountain biking the whole area. If there was ever a more beautiful place that gives peacefulness or high end adventure I haven’t found it yet. My memory’s of sailing big down winders deep into the desert, jumping and surfing the rolling waves and endlessly admiring the high cliffs and rolling ridges or mountain biking the ridges for 6 or 7 hours at a time always seeing new vistas of the wilderness, mount Hood or mnt Adam are the stuff of dreams. Now the blight of those windmills give me acid stomach every time. your right they took paradise and put up hells windmills. It’s a Eco crime that should have never passed the Gouge Commission,s mandate to preserve it!

    ****************************************************************************
    Robert M. Marshall says:
    March 20, 2011 at 11:00 am
    I live in Washington and frequently, purposely drive the Columbia Gorge just to have my breath taken away with the magnificent views in every direction. Now, the most beautiful basalt cliffs and hilly fields with lava jutting through the grasses are strewn with hidious new bright white windmills by the hundreds if not thousands. Evening drives that once showed off the night sky now glitters with the flashing “enviro-wacko” red light district. The pastures, hillsides and ridges are scarred with access roads and new distribution towers.

  124. Billy Liar says:

    Dave Springer says:
    March 20, 2011 at 4:05 am

    …No more than 30% of potential capacity is actually sold. So having 20% of the turbines down for periodic maintenance at any one time is not much of a problem and isn’t out-of-line compared with other types of electrical generation – less than 20% downtime is excellent for a nuclear reactor.

    Dave, you sometimes spout the most incredible rubbish. A 1GW nuclear reactor does what it says on the tin, produces 1GW, less the 20% for downtime, that is 800MW. Windmills, with a 1GW nameplate capacity, do what windmills do, that is produce about 300MW, less the 20% for periodic maintenance, that is 240MW.

    So according to you, 240MW from wind ‘isn’t out of line with’ 800MW from nuclear.

    I have a bridge you might be interested in.

  125. I live in Southport, on the generally windy NW coast of England. My home is 1/4 mile from the shoreline, near a Eco learning centre. Naturally, they have a windmill; about 100 foot high. I walk my dogs close to this facility on a daily basis and have often noticed that, despite good winds, the rotors are stationary. For almost a year, from 2009 through 2010, the rotors and head were removed. Presumably, this was for repair/maintenance, although the machine was only installed in 2004/5. Hardly cost-effective.

  126. TonyK says:

    red432 says:
    ‘……the significance of the structures as religious symbols.’
    Quite true – check out this quite long-winded (sorry, that wasn’t meant to be a pun) article in today’s Mail:-

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1367949/What-Mayans-teach-wind-turbines.html

    I can’t understand why greenies who claim to want to save the environment also want to cover beautiful landscapes (and seascapes) with these ghastly things. Sure, a nuclear power station isn’t exactly pretty, but at least it’s just one big building. These monstrosities despoil miles of lovely countryside. Save the planet? Who for? Not for people who will have their views ruined, and not for birds and bats (the latter being a protected species in the UK:-

    http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bats_and_the_law.html

    Greenies actively supporting a technology that ruins the landscape and kills protected species!

  127. Don Shaw says:

    http://www.pse.com/energyEnvironment/energysupply/pages/EnergySupply_ElectricityWind.aspx?tab=3&chapter=5

    Each tower foundation reaches a minimum depth of 25 ft and a maximum of 32 ft depending on bedrock depth and takes an average of 100 to 260 cubic yards of concrete.
    Each foundation requires 120 anchor bolts that span from the surface of the ground to the bottom of the foundation. A single 28 ft anchor bolt weighs approximately 150 lbs.

    I am of the impression that concrete manufacture creates a lot of CO2 emissions.

    I wonder where the break even point is given the massive concrete foundations?

  128. Dan in California says:

    Dave Wendt says: March 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm
    And in the video, besides the ones that aren’t moving, I thought I spotted at least a couple that were counter rotating, indicating that they were actually drawing power off the grid.
    ——————————————–
    No, Dave. If you drive up Oak Creek Road in the middle of the Tehachapi windfarms, you see windmills made by Mitsubishi, Vestas, NEC Micron, GE/Zond, and others. Some of them turn right-handed and others turn left-handed.

    I drive that road weekly, and I live and work where I can see several hundred. The wind here is not like the wind around offshore windfarms or on the plains of Texas. The wind here varies considerably as it flows around and over the mountains. While it is common to see 30% or 50% of the mills not turning, that is because the wind is below minimum speed to generate power. I actually do sit in my living room and take count of the number of mills not turning (nerd!), and I have never seen more than about 10% shut down in a good wind speed.

    As for subsidies, they take several forms. There are loan guarantees, there are State requirementsfor the utilities to buy a minimum of “renewable” power regardless of cost, and there is the Federal Production tax credit (PTC). The latter amounts to $.015 per KWH, or roughly half the cost to generate with coal or neutrons.

    Finally, I find it instructive to understand that “windmills do not generate power, they generate energy” Meaning that over the course of a year, they displace coal and gas fuels, but do not reduce the requirement for other generating capacity. The Tehachapi windfarm has a new high tension power line to the nearby Castaic Lake / Pyramid Lake pumped storage reservoir, which can run at up to 1500 MW. This means that the grid is not unduly affected by the windfarm output. http://www.industcards.com/ps-usa.htm

  129. Nick Fleming says:

    I was sent to work in the US in the early 90’s and often flew over California (roughly Barstow area) at low level.

    I was struck by the number of derelict wind farms.

    Near my parents home in northern England the wind turbines are now derelict.

  130. polistra says:

    Here in Washington, Avista is having problems with too much wind power at times when it’s not needed. There’s no spare grid capacity to carry the power away from the area.

    Makes sense from the overall weather pattern. The coldest AND hottest parts of the year have firm high pressure and no wind. Wind is strong during transitional periods when temp is moderate and power usage is lower.

  131. Justa Joe says:

    BlondieBC says:
    March 20, 2011 at 5:09 am
    Twenty-Five percent of the turbines being down at any given times seems to be on the low-end of the expected range. What percentage of nuclear plants, fighter aircraft, or merchant ships are at sea at any given time?
    ————————————————————–
    You cannot be serious.

    Ships and nuclear plants go down typically for scheduled maintenance, and still they have a reliability factor that so-called wind power couldn’t dream of. Moreover they meet or exceed the performance requirements, which have made them PROVEN technologies. Fighter aircraft are a very high performance type of equipment and their high maintenance is accounted for kinda like a top fuel dragster. They’re hardly an apt comparison.

    Only an ignorant green can look at a wind ‘turbine’s’ huge mechanical rotating mass and at times severe thrust loads and not see a very high maintenance piece of equipment.

  132. Dave Springer says:

    Dan in California says:
    March 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    As for subsidies, they take several forms. There are loan guarantees, there are State requirementsfor the utilities to buy a minimum of “renewable” power regardless of cost, and there is the Federal Production tax credit (PTC). The latter amounts to $.015 per KWH, or roughly half the cost to generate with coal or neutrons.

    My emphasis.

    This is misleading. The delivered average cost of electricity in the U.S. is close to $0.15/kwh so the wind subsidy is only 10% of the delivered cost.

    Also according to the DoE the levelized unsubsidized cost of nuclear generation is about 33% more than conventional coal. Coal with carbon capture is about equal in cost to nuclear power. Unsubsidized levelized cost of wind generation is about equal to conventional coal. By far the cleanest most cost effective method is combined cycle natural gas. All it produces as combustion byproducts, without any filtering or other means of removing pollutants, are water and CO2 neither of which is a pollutant if we discount the EPA’s brain-dead finding that CO2 is a pollutant. The cost of generation for combined cycle natural gas is half the cost of nuclear power. No other generation method even comes close to it. As far as that goes you can burn biomass (sawdust, cardboard, lawn clippings, etc) to fire your boiler and that’s equal in cost to nuclear power. I have no idea what data the nuclear power cheerleaders are using to justify the wonders of nuclear power but it clearly isn’t based in reality.

  133. Dave Springer says:

    Justa Joe says:
    March 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    “Ships and nuclear plants go down typically for scheduled maintenance”

    Probably more than you know too. 11% downtime for maintanance for a nuclear power plant is considered excellent and only the best and newest are that good. Older plants like the one that just destroyed itself are down about 20% of the time for regular maintenance.

    “Only an ignorant green can look at a wind ‘turbine’s’ huge mechanical rotating mass and at times severe thrust loads and not see a very high maintenance piece of equipment.”

    Only an ignorant anti-green can be unaware of the fact that high neutron flux causes even the best steel to go brittle and become a very high maintenance piece of equipment. So there.

  134. Dave Wendt says:

    The saddest part of the multi-billion dollar effort to spread these pernicious eyesores across every plot of open land in the country is that, if you add hydro into the calculations, we are actually acquiring less of our electricity from renewable sources now than we were in the mid 90s when hydro’s contribution peaked. In ’97 when hydro peaked at 356 millionMWhrs other renewables including wind were at 77 milMWhrs, making a total of 433 MMWhrs. In 2010 other renewables rose to 168MMWhrs, the difference provided almost entirely by wind, but hydro provided only 257 MMWhrs for a total renewables contribution of 425 MMWhrs. Meanwhile total usage went from 3942 MMWhrs to 4120 MMWhrs indicating an even larger decline in the percentage of renewable electricity provided than the absolute numbers suggest.

    In other words all we have accomplished after investing hundreds of billions and almost a decade and a half is to trade 100MMWhrs of the cheapest, cleanest, most easily modulated electrical supply for a slightly smaller quantity from the most expensive, most erratic, and most troublesome source available. A little more of this kind of wonderful energy policy and the leftists may achieve their goal of having all the rest of enjoy a “Little House on the Praire” lifestyle.

    The numbers I quoted are from here

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/electricity/data.cfm#generation

  135. Dave Wendt says:

    Whoops! should have been 3492 to 4120 for the change in total demand from 1997 to 2010, not 3942.

  136. Dave Springer says:

    There seems to be a general vast underestimation of what it takes to inspect a nuclear reactor vs. a windmill.

    Granted the height of the windmill and size/weight of the parts and mechanical forces on gears and bearings makes it a challenge but that’s nothing compared to a nuclear reactor.

    First of all one must be aware that the high neutron flux in a reactor causes the finest steel to go brittle and fail prematurely. Every microscopic flaw in every weld over time becomes a potentially disastrous failure point. So you have to shut down the reactor and it takes a week for it to cool down enough to get anywhere near it. Even then you can’t just walk up to it and eyeball the welds because it’s still a deadly radioactive environment. The inspection has to be done robotically with equipment that can detect subsurface defects in the steel. The reactor after a week of shutdown is just barely friendly enough so not fry robotic inspection gear. There’s whole cottage industry built just around the inspection equipment and improvments to same because every day you can shave off the time it takes to perform the inspection is a large profit incentive. So reactor designs over the years have not changed substantially in terms of underlying technology they have changed substantially to make maintenance easier to perform.

    None of these problems go away with the ballyhooed LFTR reactors. They only get worse because LFTR reactors are more complex. The only real improvements you get with LFTR are safety issues. The cost of the fuel, whether thorium or uranium, is so small to begin with that doesn’t make any difference. Neutron flux remains the same as that’s the primary energy source in all reactors so your reactor chamber, steel pipes, valves, etcetera all must still be laboriously inspected and because there’s more to inspect in the LFTR there’s more maintenance overhead. The advantages of LFTR are twofold – they don’t produce weapons grade fissionable byproducts and they don’t go into meltdown upon castastrophic failure. Economically the first advantage is a disadvantage as weapons grade fissionable byproducts are a secondary source of income – that’s some extremely valuable material. Pound for pound plutonium is more valuable than perfect gem quality diamonds. The second thing, that they don’t go into meltdown, is reassuring for the nervous nellie nattering nabobs of negativity in the ecoloon community but there are so few nuclear accidents among thousands of reactors operating for many decades now that meltdown is almost a non-concern when considered objectively. So what does LFTR get for you? Nothing that I can determine except even more expensive electricity which handily explains why a technology that’s been known for 50 years (Livermore built and operated an LFTR research reactor for five years in the 1960’s) was the only reactor of this type ever built – there are no real advantages to it!

    This also handily explains why nuclear energy didn’t turn out to be the virtually cost-free unlimited source of energy that people once thought it could be. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now, and it won’t be in the future. Get used to it.

    And while I’m on the topic fusion generators are even more destructive of the materials which contain the reaction. No material known or anticipated can withstand the fusion environment long enough to make them economically feasible.

    The future of energy (and a whole world of other useful things) lies within the scientific realm of synthetic biology. This is the only technology anywhere near ready and able to harvest the energy provided by the sun. There is enough solar energy falling on the Texas panhandle to supply all the energy needs of the entire U.S. many times over if only it could be economically collected. Synthetic biology is the key to economic collection. Sunlight, nutrient-rich wastewater, non-arable land, and atmospheric CO2, and genetically engineered microorganisms are the only ingredients required to produce natural gas and direct replacements for all hydrocarbon liquid fuels currently derived from fossil sources. Genetic engineering is advancing on a par with Moore’s Law right now.

  137. Rascal says:

    Bryan A says:
    March 20, 2011 at 1:58 am

    I hink the article mentions tthat the conditions at the time of observation were approximately those requiring peak generating capacity.

  138. kuhnkat says:

    Dave Springer,

    please stop shooting off the top of you own head and include links to these wonderful reports that CLAIM that wind is equivalent to coal. I would love to show you what you are obviously too ignorant to understand about those documents!!

    Dan in California,

    sit down and compute how much wind power and volume of pumped storage you would need to actually make wind somewhat comeptitive and useful. It is outrageous.

  139. Rascal says:

    Bryan A says:
    March 20, 2011 at 1:58 am

    I think the article mentions that the conditions at the time of observation were approximately those requiring peak generating capacity.

  140. _Jim says:

    Bryan A says:
    March 20, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Many of the Non-spinning turbines aren’t necessarily non-operable. …

    Economic dispatch by a power producer calls for utilizing as much of the cheapest available generation as possible – for obvious reasons … are you saying that wind may_not_ fit the profile of the cheapest available generation for ‘economic dispatch’?

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

    http://www.ferc.gov/eventcalendar/Files/20051110172953-FERC%20Staff%20Presentation.pdf

  141. _Jim says:

    P Gosselin, March 20, 2011 at 10:12 am :

    I’d imagin[e] that maintenance personnel don’t work for cheap, nor should they.

    IBEW should be seeing to that …

    .

  142. _Jim says:

    Baa Humbug says: “p.s. Those huge concrete blocks? They will be there for ever, never to be dug up.”

    jorgekafkazar, March 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm :

    What basis do you have for saying that? Windfarm leases call for removal of all equipment and foundations and restoration to approximate original grade.

    So far, blood has not successfully been extracted from turnips; so, too, it is with companies that have gone insolvent regardless of what lease agreements may contain …

    .

  143. Feet2theFire says:

    If we are going to have these at all, I think the current design is flawed and should be replaced by a better design. As a mechanical engineer, I don’t like those really long propeller blades. They make me cringe. A LOT. I have seen the videos of them self-destructing, and looking at ANY of them scares me. To self-destruct like that, the design simply is not robust enough. That should be obvious. I think a good deal of it is the cantilevered (known as an “overhung”) design. A center-hung design or balanced gravity load design would be better, IMHO. Center-hung mans the blades would be between the support bearings; having two blades both overhung at both ends would balance the forces on the shafts and bearings. Both of these are inherently more stable, although overhung is also okay, if the design is strong enough.

    But mainly I think shorter blades would be more efficient in the long term. I’d put 2 perhaps 4) on the same pivoting base, with a large rudder to keep it turned into the wind. I think a fore-and-aft design with smaller blades would withstand the forces better and more reliably. By “fore-and-aft” I mean the propeller shaft would line up with the wind as now, but one set of blades would be on the windward side and one on the lee side.

    It cannot be the wind turbine idea itself that is bad; it has to be ignorant mechanical design. I chose that word – “ignorant” – carefully, BTW, because rotating shafts that deal with forces are designed all the time, by engineers all over the world. There are MILLIONS of rotating shafts out there in industry that don’t self-destruct. Some of that comes from preventive maintenance (PM). Most of it comes from proper understanding of the forces being dealt with. Bearings if sized properly simply do not seize up and rotors simply don’t fall apart.

    People need to know that there is nothing at all mystical or magical or inherently vicious about wind. Wind is just one of many applied forces that rotating shafts are designed to deal with. Force is force, after all.

    I suspect strongly that the companies making the darned things simply are cutting corners and putting out deficient designs. For one thing, I know that these designs are not capable of handling high winds – and that, to me, is simply ridiculous. The things aught to be designed primarily for high winds. After all, that is when the most energy is available! If they were designed for those high winds, with sufficient SF (safety factor or service factor), then they would be even more safe in “normal winds.”

    To me, this is an utterly unacceptable failure rate and life span. Who is designing these things, anyway? If they were surgeons, they would have their patients dying right and left.

    I can think of many ways I would look at these designs and try to improve them. I won’t go into them all, but the three I would deal with first are 1.) how to shorten the blades so that their operating tip speeds are not so close their stress limits, 2.) the overhung design, and 3.) automatic lubrication or (preferred) manual lubrication from the ground level, which of course has inherent difficulties, but not impossible.

    All of this is basic design, folks. Shame on them for having failures. And shame on them for designing ones that have to shut down in high winds. (I’d design them for 120-mph, as a minimum, with a SF of 1.5.)

  144. _Jim says:

    Dave Springer, March 20, 2011 at 4:05 am :


    I don’t know about California but in Texas (which has 3x more wind power than any other state) wind power is not heavily subsidized and power from them is sold on the open market by bid/ask.

    Dave, since you’re in Texas, would it be too much to ask of you to point that part of the ERCOT website where/how *settle-ups are accomplished on this open bid/ask deal?

    *Settle – To agree, to approve, to arrange, to ascertain, to liquidate, or to reach an agreement. Parties are said to settle an account when they examine its items and ascertain and agree upon the balance due from one to the other.

    The term “settle up” is a colloquial rather than legal phrase that is applied to the final collection, adjustment, and distribution of the estate … It includes the processes of collecting the property, paying the debts and charges, and remitting the balance to those entitled to receive it.

    .

  145. Dave Wendt says:

    Dave Springer says:
    March 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    “Probably more than you know too. 11% downtime for maintanance for a nuclear power plant is considered excellent and only the best and newest are that good. Older plants like the one that just destroyed itself are down about 20% of the time for regular maintenance.”

    The Average Capacity Factor for the entire U.S. nuclear industry, old and and new alike, hasn’t been below 90% since ’06 when it hit 89.6%. From ’07 to ’09 it averaged over 91%. That’s as a percentage of its theoretical maximum running 24/7/365 at Net Summer Capacity which is about 5% off nameplate capacity

  146. Dave Wendt says:

    Forgot the link, Alsheimer’s may be setting in.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat5p2.html

  147. _Jim says:

    Dr. Dave, March 20, 2011 at 11:58 am :

    A future growth industry might be taking these eyesores down …

    I think CDI has that market cornered; they did the demolition work on the Big Rock Nuclear Plant that existed on the shores of northern Lake Michigan (that site has been ‘returned to nature’ as the greens say) … they ‘softened up’ the reactor containment concrete structures so the wrecking ball would have a fighting chance …

    http://www.controlled-demolition.com/

    .

  148. Brian H says:

    Google “WTS”, Wind Turbine Syndrome. The goats aren’t the only ones who can’t sleep!

    Anthony, Edit Note: As previously noted, a large number of gearboxes have had to be replaced “in large numbers.”
    Only one large number(s) needed, I think!

    REPLY: posted as written on the other site, translated by third party. -A

  149. Larry in Texas says:

    Another good example, Anthony, of the failed government energy/environmental policy. We should end these stupid subsidies.

    Another observation: I suspect that it isn’t just maintenance that keeps one in four of these turbines quiet. It isn’t just how hard the wind blows, it is the direction of the wind, too. Winds in those mountainous areas like what you drove through and videoed can swirl, suddenly change directions, you name it. And of course, if the winds are too vigorous, their gear boxes break down, like the ones shown in Germany.

  150. Jessie says:

    Thank you Anthony, your article was most instructive and interesting.

    The article ‘Downstream of a Green’ links to the Daily Mail story on the mining of rare earth minerals in inner Mongolia and the manufacture of magnets for wind-turbines. The ensuing horrific damage to local people and the agricultural area from the waste-products is described.

    http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2011/03/20/downstream-of-green/

  151. Ryan says:

    I think you need to educate yourself a bit about how wind turbines work. You may not realise this but wind turbines actually work BETTER in low winds. They can’t actually cope with very high winds – these cause the blades of the turbine to be furled so they don’t blow over. That’s probably why you saw so few working on a very windy day – many of them were self-protecting. Of course the rest were probably outputting a relatively high level of energy so the fact that some were self-protecting didn’t result in a below average output of electrical power.

  152. WillR says:

    Jessie says:
    March 21, 2011 at 1:14 am
    …mining of rare earth minerals in inner Mongolia and the manufacture of magnets for wind-turbines.

    Less than three percent of the rare earths mined are for “super magnets”. The Chinese REE mining story is not about wind turbines.

    This was discussed at some length on the Wind Concerns Ontario Site. References are there.

    http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/wind-energy%E2%80%99s-dirty-secret/

    It is a story about bad mining practice. Period.

  153. WillR says:

    kellys_eye says:
    March 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I suspect a worldwide survey of all wind farms would produce some interesting statistics – especially regarding inefficiency – but it beggars belief that anyone responsible for the creation of such farms would knowingly proceed with historical and technical facts at hand.

    Well — here is some information from Ontario Canada — official numbers even.

    http://ontariowindperformance.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/chapter-3-1-powering-ontario/

    The link to the original paper that examined Ontario Production is at the end of the article — along with links to the source data.

    Are the turbines inefficient? Maybe useless is the right word.

  154. Austin says:

    Anyone with with real world experience can tell you that maintenance costs are 90% of the cost of most things.

    It takes people and a technology base to keep things running.

    And the older the systems get the more expensive it is to maintain them as people and the technology base get older and start to be retired.

    In addition, most systems need a complete replacement every so often.

    Maintenance also requires motivated management to keep the teams focused, staffed, trained, supplied, and responsive.

    This kind of management is very hard to find and to keep as they get it from all different directions and must be intrinsically motivated. Few have what it takes to be successful.

    Wind power is not immune to the principles of engineering management.

    And with thousands of complex structures scattered around the landscape with each just producing a small fraction of the energy a gas turbine or nuke plant, wind requires a much larger amount of commitment per unit of energy produced.

  155. Joe Lalonde says:

    Anthony,

    Science still has not figured out that there is a HUGE difference from harnessing energy from the radius of a circle to the circumference of one. Also missed how centrifugal force interacts to generate friction and drag.

  156. Justa Joe says:

    Dave Springer says:
    March 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm Only an ignorant anti-green can be unaware of the fact that high neutron flux causes even the best steel to go brittle and become a very high maintenance piece of equipment. So there.
    ——————————————————————————-
    I’m not sure how credible your claims are. I’ve never heard of nuclear power being knocked on the basis of poor reliability. The fact that nuclear power powers our stategic submarine and air craft carrier fleet suggests to me that the maintenance intervals are long and the reliability is quite high. Most of all nuclear actually creates the power needed on demand. So-called wind turbines are often down due to lack of wind or too much wind even when they’re not down due to mechanical failure. On top of that it requires huge numbers of wind turbines arrayed over huge expanses of land to even theoretically approach what a single nuclear plant produces.

    BTW the Fukushima plant didn’t exaclty destroy itself. The Tsunami and mega quake factored in a tad.

  157. FerdinandAkin says:

    BlondieBC says:
    March 20, 2011 at 5:09 am
    Twenty-Five percent of the turbines being down at any given times seems to be on the low-end of the expected range. What percentage of nuclear plants, fighter aircraft, or merchant ships are at sea at any given time?

    Blondie,
    Do you have a point in your comparison of primary power producing nuclear plants to other machines whose function is power consumption? The requirements for each are quite different. The purpose for the existence of each is quite different.

    The fighter aircraft are constructed with the tradeoff of sacrificing components of the machine to achieve high performance. The high attrition level of components makes it necessary to for substantial portion of the machine’s lifetime be dedicated to maintenance.

    Merchant ships are designed for economics. A good portion of a merchant ships lifetime is spent waiting to be loaded and unloaded. Time spent not being used is not equivalent to time being unavailable.

    You want to look at capacity utilization of nuclear power plant? Investigate the time available for the reactors on Ballistic Missile Submarines while on patrol. The number 99.9% comes to mind.

  158. George E. Smith says:

    Actually Anthony; if you check out that photo again you will see quite clearly that NOT ALL of those fans are turning.

    The photographer deliberately took a long enough exposure so you can clearly see the blade rotation in the foreground propellors.
    Now look up at the top again and you can see that a great many of the fans are stone cold dead. If they all were rotating, they also all would be phase locked; some clearly are not.

    I drive that route to SoCal regularly, and there are always dozens of stopped fans even when the wind is howling through there. They also used to have a lot of vertical turbines up there, which don’t care about wind direction. They also suck because of vertical wind shear; which every sailor is familiar with.. There’s very little wind at ground level. So no more verticals.

  159. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” Ryan says:
    March 21, 2011 at 3:30 am
    I think you need to educate yourself a bit about how wind turbines work. You may not realise this but wind turbines actually work BETTER in low winds. They can’t actually cope with very high winds – these cause the blades of the turbine to be furled so they don’t blow over. “”””””

    Good advice you should follow too.

    So you design your windmill for best efficiency at some wind speed; say 10 mph just to have a number. If the wind speed drops to five mph, you just lost 87.5% of your entire plant capacity. So clearly 12.5% of desing working capacity is not a useful condition. You are better off to shut them all down to save wear and tear on the gear boxes.

    And if the wind speed went up by five to 15mph, the loads on the fan and tower would be 2.25 times higher. So just to handle a 3:1 wind speed range, you have to design for peak stresses that are more than double the design operating conditions. You will get more than three times the power at the 15 mph wind.

    And when you shut them down in high winds, you better turn them perpendicular to the wind; because the wind thrust which puts an axial load on the bearings, will go up much faster with the blade not turning. So even with the prop feathered, you can’t leave the fan face on to the wind.

    And it is sails that get furled in high winds; not propellors.

  160. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” Feet2theFire says:
    March 20, 2011 at 9:15 pm
    If we are going to have these at all, I think the current design is flawed and should be replaced by a better design. As a mechanical engineer, I don’t like those really long propeller blades. “””””

    Well not being a mechanical engineer, I had this totally idiotic notion that somehow the maximum power you could extract from the wind, with a propellor was somehow related to the area of the air column that was intercepted. As if force was pressure times area or something like that.

    One observation; following your long blade abhorence, would be that when you look at say a three blade propellor, you can immediately see that most of the wind just goew right on by the propellor, in the gaps that fill most of the space. I doubt that even 5% of the area is occupied by propellor blades.

    So why not make (much) shorter blades, and then connect the blade tips with a pair of concentric (short) cylinders; and then fill those cylinders with a whole raft of blades, so that the entire perimeter area was occupied by blades (maybe half of it anyhow) like a real axial flow turbine.

    The blade tip cyclinders wouldn’t need to have much weight or strength; they are simply a rotating duct. You could ditch the outer (or inner ) cyclinder to save weight, but a fully ducted turbine blade is probably more efficient by enough to justfiy a fully ducted design.

    The radial “struts” would now be just supports for the annular ducted fan; but you might as well put a (fixed) air foil on them anyway.

    Yes I know they would look ugly as sin; but they do that now anyway.

  161. Dan in California says:

    kuhnkat says: March 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm
    Dan in California,
    sit down and compute how much wind power and volume of pumped storage you would need to actually make wind somewhat comeptitive and useful. It is outrageous.
    —————————————————————-
    I have done those calculations and I agree. It is outrageous. Wind power is far from competitive when storage is included. My point is that most windfarms can overload the grid, but the Tehachapi wind farm is connected to a large capacitor. Therefore, it’s not quite so stupid as most. I freely admit that during the time of greatest need, afternoons in the summer, the wind turbines are frequently just sitting there.

    Here’s my reference for local grid activity: http://www2.caiso.com/ In the summer it runs at about twice the rate as in the winter. Therefore, thermal plants (coal, nuke, gas) schedule their maintenance downtime at off peak times, whereas wind power is completely unpredictable.

  162. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” Dave Springer says:
    March 20, 2011 at 6:10 pm
    Dan in California says:
    March 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    As for subsidies, they take several forms. There are loan guarantees, there are State requirementsfor the utilities to buy a minimum of “renewable” power regardless of cost, and there is the Federal Production tax credit (PTC). The latter amounts to $.015 per KWH, or roughly half the cost to generate with coal or neutrons.

    My emphasis.

    This is misleading. The delivered average cost of electricity in the U.S. is close to $0.15/kwh so the wind subsidy is only 10% of the delivered cost. “””””

    “Subsidies” by definition are costs that are borne by persons or businesses or corporations, who are not owners or shareholders of the subsidized eneterprise; and most often are not even customers of the subsidized “venture” so the payers of those subsidies (in compulsory taxes) are not beneficiaries of the subsized enterprise in any way (mostly).

    And for every dollar that the subsidizee puts up (in taxes); he (it) has to generate 2-5 dollars in taxable profits (State and Federal). The long term average profitability of all coporations in the USA (for example) is about 4% after taxes, or 6% pretax, so the subsidizee needs to do about $16-$17 dollars in profitable enterprise for each dollar of profit, or32 to 85 dollars for each dollar in subsidy.

    And that 32 to 85 dollars of private enterprise capitalism probably does so using fossil fuels that are readily available for their energy source; all to boost the miserable public picture of a failed idea; that can’t stand on its own two feet.

  163. Dan in California says:

    George E. Smith says: March 21, 2011 at 10:33 am
    Now look up at the top again and you can see that a great many of the fans are stone cold dead. If they all were rotating, they also all would be phase locked; some clearly are not.

    I drive that route to SoCal regularly, and there are always dozens of stopped fans even when the wind is howling through there.
    ———————————————————
    George, a dirty little secret of the Tehachapi wind farm is that there’s not enough transmission line to get the power out. When you drive through and see stopped mills, it’s likely that the wind companies are being paid to produce no power. really. That reason and not maintenance need is why you see a high fraction of the mills not turning when the wind is up. That problem has been fixed in the past few months as a new transmission line is being installed. There is another 740 MW of mills being installed now, and they’re marching downhill toward the town of Mojave. Also, the older 30 KW units are phase locked to the grid (that’s why they all turn the same speed) but the big new 1.5 MW mills have hydrostatic drive to optimize the RPM and blade pitch.

  164. Physics Major says:

    It sounds like a job for the Monkey Wrench Gang.

  165. drjohn says:

    Anthony

    I drove through Palm Springs a few years ago and what struck me also was the sheer number of windmills that were non-functioning. I thought it was around 1 in 8.

  166. kuhnkat says:

    Dan in California,

    and how could not including the pumped storage make it better?? Then you need the full backup all the time!! Wind is NOT useful for major generation. It is a nice gizmo, if they ever get the price down, for people who do not want to run the lines to their remote property or don’t want full dependence on the system. Of course, there is the co$t.

    How do you schedule maintenance for the backup systems when the wind might stop tomorrow for a week?? You must have backup for your wind backup. Something not mentioned so far.

    The companies jumping into wind are scraping the dollars from the various subsidies, loan guarantees, feed in tariffs… and apparently, from this article, would appear to realize that it will not last so are not putting any of the money back into the farms. Smart if all you care about is the money!!!

    Shows what the Politicians and Al Gore are really doing!! Taking advantage of the latest scare to enrich themselves and friends. The enviro whackjobs are taking advantage of building a collapsing system in the hopes that we will not be able to dig our technology and energy based society out.

  167. RockyRoad says:

    RockyRoad says:
    March 20, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I predict within 5 years, there will be a world-wide effort to remove all those noisy, bird-killing monstrosities they call wind turbines. Cold fusion will have made them obsolete for the next million years–or more.

    I love progress, especially when it cleans up the environment.

    Just found out that a report of Rossi’s E-Cat made a mainstream media outlet here in the states:

    http://www.freeenergytimes.com/2011/03/19/frank-perley-of-the-washington-times-writes-op-ed-piece-about-rossi-focardi-cold-fusion-technology/

    And here’s what one commenter says about it:

    http://www.freeenergytimes.com/2011/03/19/frank-perley-of-the-washington-times-writes-op-ed-piece-about-rossi-focardi-cold-fusion-technology/

  168. fenbeagle says:

    George E Smith…..’Yes I know they would look ugly as sin; but they do that now anyway.’

    Oh thank’s George…… That’s a great idea then. The one’s I can see from my home, are often not turning because of low winds, not for any other reason. Don’t suggest having them sit there doing nothing, with attachments added to make them look uglier.

    Now…..If you were to suggest adding rocket motors to the end of each blade, and have them whizz round like Catherine wheels, that would be something.

  169. George E. Smith says:

    So I found the Cook’s tour of the Wind Turban; izzat any way related to a Ter-byne ? very informative. I learned for example that it was a zoom turban anywhere from 5 KW to 5 MW peak generating capability. Well maybe the real number is classified; a military secret; which explains why they never even mentioned the single most important fact you would want to know about a wind turban; like how much airspeed does it take to blow the turban off your head for example.

    Well obfuscation is the prime art of the NEWS business.

  170. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” Dan in California says:
    March 21, 2011 at 11:33 am
    George E. Smith says: March 21, 2011 at 10:33 am “””””

    Dan, thanks for the details. I always wondered what those little tichy things were; 30 kW you say. And the big dudes are 1.5 MW. I always thought that the whole idea was to run the tip speed up to as high a mach number as you could for maximum prop efficiency; which is why I read all about the big long carbon composite blades they are building in Europe, that are too damn big to even move along the Autobahn(s).

    I have mentioned that these things have a built in shake themselves to pieces vibration mode due to the vertical wind shear. The blade going over the top sees a drag and lift that increase as the square of the wind speed; but going over the near ground point the wind speed is a lot lower so you get both an axial blade bending, and thrust bearing load oscillation as well as a torsional blade bending and circumferential acceleration mode all at the constant rotation frequency. Well if as you say, those big buggers are no longer phase locked (good idea); then at least it is a variable frequency vibration mode; which of course likely complicates the design of the blades for fatigue life.
    I wonder if they feather the blade continuously to equalize the loads ? But it seems to me, you can fether so as to minimise the axial thrust variation with blade rotation, or you can feather it to maintain constant angular lift. I don’t think you can level out both drag and lift at the same time by prop feathering.

  171. Jason Bair says:

    I took some closer pictures today of those same turbines. The farm farther south than the 58 has an even worse percentage of working units. Today (a fairly windy and cold day) there were only 10 or so working out of +100 in my immediate area.

    The worst part; across the street they’re installing brand new giant units. Why fix the old ones when you can just install more?

    Closeup pic I have shows how dirty these things really are with oil dripping down it. LKM if you want a copy.

  172. Doug says:

    But as long as the brainwashing in schools continues, people will still demand them, my daughter is in 5th grade and the chapter they are going over energy this week is on energy. Of course fosil fuels are portrayed as bad, wind , solar etc good.
    Of course to counter act this, I discuss what I learn on this site. We just reviewed this post. Thanks to all of you.

  173. Jessie says:

    WillR says: March 21, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Thanks WillR, much appreciated, the links and commentary were informative.
    I read the last blogger quotes Willis E and stating the article should be posted on the Wall of Shame.

    Good luck with the $2 billion,the request proposed by blogger D Robinson in response to improving the manufacturing (+?mining) processes.
    The recently reported China Development Forum 2011 may be an impetus for improvements in industry practices?

  174. W. Falicoff says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    March 20, 2011 at 6:58 am

    “Publicly funded jobs are never worth an investment of my taxes, short term or long term. ”

    Do you have a problem with publicly funded private jobs (Northrup Grumman, etc) or public insurance for nuclear power plants (no private insurance companies will insure them)?

  175. I’d love to see an analysis of maintenance costs vs. contribution to actual energy that is free and clear of the debt TO those costs.

    I always tell everyone, somewhat tongue-in-cheekily: that it costs more–in barrels of 3-in-one oil–to keep them babies spinning, than they could ever produce in energy.

  176. Frank says:

    Just a note to say that Andrea Rossi will be a guest on the US radio show Coast to Coast AM on Wednesday March 23.

  177. Brian H says:

    I’ve got it! A new design to make maintenance easier and cheaper.

    Make the towers telescoping. To do maintenance, first the blade and rotor are rotated upwards, then the tower is collapsed down to about 1/10 its full height, and then re-extended etc. when the work is done.

    Simples!

  178. J.Hansford says:

    10 and 20 ton pieces of equipment!!!….. So not only do they need windy spots away from people….. They need heavy truck and crane access….. No wonder it all costs a fortune with the damn things falling into disrepair and disuse!

  179. Dave Springer says:

    George E. Smith says:
    March 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    “I have mentioned that these things have a built in shake themselves to pieces vibration mode due to the vertical wind shear.”

    Like a helicopter. One of my fixed wing flight instructors was also a rotary wing instructor. He told me helicopters are basically buckets of bolts trying to rattle themselves apart. Very high maintenance and for the same reasons as wind turbines – the wing loading changes rapidly in a non-linear manner from wing to wing at the same time upsetting the balanced rotation. That combined with the need for lowest practical mass of the wing and it’s a recipe for stress fractures in the wing components and high wear rate on bearings and gear trains.

  180. Dave Springer says:

    George E. Smith says:
    March 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    “I have mentioned that these things have a built in shake themselves to pieces vibration mode due to the vertical wind shear.”

    Nuclear reactors have a different but no less nightmarish maintenance problem. High neutrino flux embrittles steel which in turn makes every microscopic defect in the steel a potential catastrophic failure point. Adding insult to injury is that you have to cool the reactor down for a week before even robots can get close enough to it to inspect the steel and it practically never cools down enough for humans to get close enough to it to perform the inspections. I think I’d prefer being a windmill technician in the U.S. versus a Nigerian uranium miner too. No one ever seems to talk about the fuel mining and refining health hazards of nuclear power generation – those fuel rods don’t grow on trees like bananas. Radiation exposure risks mostly happen at the mines and uranium refineries not in the generating plants.

  181. Justa Joe says:

    At least with Nuclear you actually get some electrical generation out of it.

  182. Dave Springer says:

    George E. Smith says:
    March 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Good advice you should follow too.

    So you design your windmill for best efficiency at some wind speed; say 10 mph just to have a number. If the wind speed drops to five mph, you just lost 87.5% of your entire plant capacity. So clearly 12.5% of desing working capacity is not a useful condition. You are better off to shut them all down to save wear and tear on the gear boxes.

    And if the wind speed went up by five to 15mph, the loads on the fan and tower would be 2.25 times higher. So just to handle a 3:1 wind speed range, you have to design for peak stresses that are more than double the design operating conditions. You will get more than three times the power at the 15 mph wind.

    And when you shut them down in high winds, you better turn them perpendicular to the wind; because the wind thrust which puts an axial load on the bearings, will go up much faster with the blade not turning. So even with the prop feathered, you can’t leave the fan face on to the wind.

    And it is sails that get furled in high winds; not propellors.

    Good advice for you to follow is to read up on something before bloviating.

    Here’s a good place to start on this particular topic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_turbine_design#Pitch_control

    Sustained wind speed isn’t a problem for either efficiency or stress loading with variable pitch blades. Higher performance and/or higher efficiency aircraft have been using variable pitch props like unto forever. The problem is gusting winds where the pitch control can’t react fast enough. And of course variable pitch adds cost, complexity, additional failure points, and additional maintenance concerns. So like most things in life and engineering there are tradeoffs involved.

  183. Dave Springer says:

    @George Smith

    By the way, a feathered prop isn’t one that has stopped rotating. A feathered prop is one that is pitched such that the blade’s edge is directly into the wind reducing drag to a minimum. Feathering and unfeathering is also called furling and the term is used with wings as well as with sails. An unfurled stopped blade facing into the wind has incredibly high drag. In twin engine aircraft with widely separated wing-mounted engines they become unflyable due to the difference in drag if one prop is stopped and unfurled. The vertical stabilizer and rudder become inadequate to keep the tail aligned with the nose and an unrecoverable flat spin develops rather quickly.
    Absent variable pitch so the prop can be furled possible alternatives are compression releases for the engine and transmission releases that allow the prop to spin free. I’ve never heard of those alternative mechanisms actually used on any modern aircraft but I’m sure some enterprising individual looking for a cheaper solution in the long storied saga of aviation thought to employ those instead of furlable blades.

    A furled wind turbine is pointed directly into the wind. It’s only wind turbines without variable pitch blades that must be turned perpendicular to the wind to minimize drag when wind speed exceeds design threshold.

  184. Ralph says:

    Here are some more dangerous windelecs…

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/167877_10150383324780214_518940213_17120736_1293224_n1.jpg?w=640&h=480

    P.S. Windmills grind corn. Windelecs generate electricity.

    .

  185. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” Dave Springer says:
    March 22, 2011 at 9:06 am
    George E. Smith says:
    March 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    “I have mentioned that these things have a built in shake themselves to pieces vibration mode due to the vertical wind shear.”

    Nuclear reactors have a different but no less nightmarish maintenance problem. High neutrino flux embrittles steel which in turn makes every microscopic defect in the steel a potential catastrophic failure point. “””””

    Dave, MY post was of relevence ONLY to the problems of existing generations of installed Wind Turbines. I made; and intended, no comparison whatsoever with the problems of Nuclear, coal, hydro-electric, tidal, PEV solar, fossil fuel, bio-fuel, cow dung fuel, or wood burning; or any other energy technology, currently in use or contemplated.

    I don’t have any problem with your posting information regarding such problems that you are knowledgeable about; but what is your point in linking it to a wind turbine problem that I mentioned; is there some coupling that I am not aware of between nuclear and wind turbines ?

    And you mentioned the high neutrino flux degradation of steel, leasding to embrittlement.

    This is the first time I have ever heard of such a mechanism. Usually one thinks of neutrinos, passing completley through the earth without hitting anything, so I was not aware that neutrinos were particularly damaging to steels.

    I’m quite familar with the degradation of materials in reactors by the high Neutron flux that is an essential ingredient of nuclear fission energy. In fact the very first Transistor circuit that I ever designed and built over 50 years ago, was for the detection of Neutron fluxes; and in particular for the monitoring of the neutron damage to living tissue; as in human being exposure to neutron flux. I also built a very high sensitivity Scintillation detector for Neutrons, that was capable of completely isolating Neutrons from gamma rays, or alpha and beta charged particle fluxes. So I know something about Neutron damage; but this is the first time I have heard of neutrino damage to materials.
    Can you tell us more about the specific neutrino capture events in steel, that lead to this damage.

  186. Ralph says:

    Off shore windelecs are even worse – once all that sea-spray gets to work. One set of Danish windelecs needed all their gearboxes replacing after just 18 months.

    .

  187. Ralph says:

    If you really want to know how useless wind power is, take a look at these two graphs. These are the wind charts for Liverpool Bay for January / February 2010 (where there are lots of windelecs).

    http://coastobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/sadata_met_month.php?code=5&span=jan2010

    http://coastobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/sadata_met_month.php?code=5&span=feb2010

    The blue line is the sustained wind speed, and anything less than 7kts not supplying any worthwhile electrical power. Here we see more than a month – a full 40 days – without any significant wind, and so without any significant wind-inspired electrical power. This is the duration of outage that we need to store up electrical energy for, to prevent rolling blackouts across the country, and this makes a mockery of any arguments that we can store wind power for windless days.

    Energy storage on this scale ‘aint going to happen. What will happen is rolling power cuts across the nation, and the entire economy grinding to a halt.

    .

  188. Jockdownsouth says:

    The lovely Subrosa has a post showing the disruption in rural Scotland as they press ahead with wind farms despite much local oppposition.

    http://subrosa-blonde.blogspot.com/2011/03/wind-turbine-installations-what-few-see.html

  189. Dave Springer says:

    Ralph says:
    March 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    If you really want to know how useless wind power is, take a look at these two graphs. These are the wind charts for Liverpool Bay for January / February 2010 (where there are lots of windelecs).

    http://coastobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/sadata_met_month.php?code=5&span=jan2010

    http://coastobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/sadata_met_month.php?code=5&span=feb2010

    The blue line is the sustained wind speed, and anything less than 7kts not supplying any worthwhile electrical power. Here we see more than a month – a full 40 days – without any significant wind, and so without any significant wind-inspired electrical power. This is the duration of outage that we need to store up electrical energy for, to prevent rolling blackouts across the country, and this makes a mockery of any arguments that we can store wind power for windless days.

    Energy storage on this scale ‘aint going to happen. What will happen is rolling power cuts across the nation, and the entire economy grinding to a halt.

    If you look at the other 10 months of 2010 there’s hardly a day where the wind is under 7kts. In fact the wind is SO reliable there I suspect that in January and February the met station’s anemometer wasn’t working right – probably frozen.

    However you are certainly right about storage being a problem for electricity generated by wind/solar. The answer today is large grids with many generators of different kinds in different places feeding it. I believe all these “alternatives” to fossil fuels including nuclear are stopgap measures and furthermore that none of them even come close to being economically competitive and will never be less expensive. However, I also believe that within the few decades all current alternatives and fossil fuel itself will be made obsolete by hydrocarbon fuels manufactured by way of biosynthetic organisms that turn sunlight, CO2, and wastewater directly into methane (natural gas), diesel, ethanol, and others as needed in one easy step. No natural organisms do this because generating these hydrocarbons bestows no survival advantage but are rather unneeded metabolic byproducts but a genetically engineered organism in an artificial environment which doesn’t have to compete with other organisms in the wild can easily do it. The salient point is it can be done so inexpensively that it will drive other sources of energy out of business. Even better is that abundant inexpensive energy is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to what synthetic organisms can produce for us. The age of nanotechnology is upon us. Synthetic organisms are the workers that build things to specification for us atom by atom and molecule by molecule. Hydrocarbon fuels just happen to be one of the easiest things to make because they are simple molecules that nature already produces in small quantities and require no complex macroscopic arrangement.

  190. Dave Springer says:

    George E. Smith says:
    March 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

    re; high neutrino flux embrittling steel

    Typo on my part. I meant neutron flux.

  191. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT says:

    Could it be that GE, the back room dealer in most of this wasting of our tax money might be full of lies about how we need smart grids and wind machines? After all they’ve proven they have a real economic incentive to lie before this. Just look at Japan’s mess and think GE when you see the design of those nuclear plants. Now they say we need wind? Who can believe them. Their PR firm Edelman is a well paid liar for Jeff Immelt and so far the public is still believing these lies.

  192. Duncan MacLeod says:

    This blog, and most of the comments, are typical of laypersons, or those who see things at a glance, don’t know what they are seeing or what they are talking about.

    MOST of the wind Turbines that are visible from Highway 58 in the Tehachapi area are older designs that are being phased out. In fact, because it has been found that some of these “wind farms” along Highway 58, in the Tehachapi pass per se, were not situated in the best locations, some are being phased out and dismantled entirely.

    These were older (some MUCH older), smaller, units with higher rotational speeds and greater maintenance issues. They did (do) not have the computerized blade pitch control mechanisms of newer units and thus were more prone to having their blades deployed (feathered) and brake failures. This would be particularly prevalent after a period of high winds during a storm. It was, and still is, not uncommon to see many of these older units inoperative after a weekend storm and before maintenance crews have been unable to come in, make repairs, and bring them back online. Also, as old turbines are being removed and new ones erected in their place, some of those that currently appear to be “inoperative” simply have not yet been completed and brought into service.

    The newer, larger, and more modern turbines are located along Tehachapi Willow Springs Road and desert areas to the east of there. You will find that these larger units, which turn much more slowly, are in service for a much greater percentage of time. Right now, and with new construction of turbines occurring at a record pace, many of those that you don’t see operating, once again, simply have not yet been brought online.

    I have lived in the Tehachapi area since 1986 and was a frequent visitor before that. I have seen the evolution of the wind industry in the area and have seen the technology and reliability of the systems increase exponentially in that time. Though there have been periods where the industry has suffered, and companies have gone out of business leaving inoperative and degrading equipment in their wake, but right now most of those are being removed, the properties being cleaned up, and MANY are being replaced with the latest, most modern, units. Some of the companies mentioned in this blog and comments, including Zond and Enron, in fact no longer exist.

    Merely “passing through” does not give a true picture of the health or state of the industry. We who observe it everyday know that it is thriving and expanding. Tehachapi is proud to have reclaimed the title of “World Wind Energy Leader”

  193. Brian H says:

    Well, Dunc, got your nose deep in the subsidy trough, I see! Don’t get too used to it …

  194. Dodgy Geezer says:

    @PSolar

    “….More seriously though , this random, perhaps non representative report is not encouraging. Clearly this is picking out worst cases to make the point. Pictures of well maintained sites would be boring. Maybe a survey like surfacestations project would be interesting. ….This case alone seems to suggest badly structured subsidies are letting corporations cream of a nice profit without the need to actually produce any power.”

    PSolar is quite right. This piece is a political one, NOT a scientific one. While I am opposed to wind and solar installations (and I assume PSolar supports them) I cannot take any data from this piece to advance my argument – it is all innuendo. What both sides of the argument really need is proper data – independently gathered. Data on electricity generation should be easy enough to get, but I suspect that costs for this will be much harder to pin down if wind power is funded by complicated subsidy structures. Companies like Enron have shown themselves to be very skilled at hiding financial data, so I suspect that the unit cost of any kind of electricity could be anything you want it to be.

    I second PSolar’s call for a survey, though I am not sure what it might measure…

  195. Ashley Marie says:

    Does anyone know how I can get in touch with Mr. Watts? Perhaps someone knows an available email address?

  196. Just Tex says:

    Back in the 1960’s and early 70’s, before government funded rural electrification projects had strung wires to just about every part of the country, I saw many ranches that had jury-rigged cheap vehicle alternators strapped onto the turning shafts of common water windmills. The alternators charged a bank of batteries, most often kept in a simple small shed somewhere below the tower.

    Those homemade contraptions would provide enough electricity around the ranch house to run a radio telephone, a few lights, and the bigger systems even ran washing machines, a small “cracker box” welder, and a few hand held power tools too!

    With careful planning for use, those ranch houses had enough electricity to do absolutely everything they needed to do, almost entirely for free.

    Ranch house refrigerators, freezers, room and hot water heaters, ran off of free waste natural gas called “casing gas”, piped in from a nearby (sometimes a mile or more away) oil well. Or, they paid for propane, that was trucked in as the supply was needed.

    Most ranchers used tough (bulletproof) Aermotor windmills, sturdy long lasting 12v or 24v American made vehicle alternators, and each had spare parts and their own way of hooking up the batteries and the wiring.

    The “fans” of that type of windmill appear almost solid to a bird or bat, so few to no animals are ever lost in the blades. The average height of the tower rarely exceed 60′, and most are at or below 30′, so annual maintenance is relatively safe and easy, rather than a death defying act of pure courage. And most important, they last for years, and years, and years, with almost NO maintenance at all!

    My point is, perhaps we need to look to the more simple things of the past, instead of blighting the landscape with giant techno-behemoths that suffer enormous line loss of the power they occasionally do manage to sputter and generate.

    Those giants are extremely expensive to build. And, are very hard to keep operational without an entire well paid circus act, plus a huge crane or even two, just waiting in a constant state of mechanical standby.

    So why not go “Back to the future”?

    That’s just some food for thought…

  197. Ashley Marie says:

    I am giving a speech for a speech class playing the devils advocate of being against wind energy. So many thing because it’s GREEN, it is a great alternative.
    What I am having trouble finding is how much one costs to build? I am sure it varies at the largest level possible, but does anyone have any figures?

  198. Mel says:

    Hmmm, what a mess! I agree this is a daunting problem but did we forget how many vehicles we’ve piled up in junk yards, back and front yards of homes or just left abandoned? How many houses or commercial/industrial buildings are abandon? All are eyes sores. The list could go on and on. It seems most of you are picking on an industry just for the sake of nagging and not looking at the whole picture.
    Do you see opportunity? Any entrepreneurs out there?

  199. Duncan MacLeod says:

    Brian H says: “Well, Dunc, got your nose deep in the subsidy trough, I see! Don’t get too used to it ”

    Well Brian H., typical of anyone with limited knowledge of the FACTS (other than what they “read on the web”, and lacking the cerebral capacity to post an intelligent rebuttal, you resort to personal attacks and insults.

    I’m a cop , and have absolutely no personal or professional ties to the wind industry.

  200. Brian H says:

    Dunc;
    The local economy seems to be battening on the subsidy-fed wind industry, by your own statement. “Public servants” are the first in line in such “captive” micro-economies.

    The deadly effects of legislated “renewables” fantasies are just starting to generate push-back. It’s going to be brutal when it really gets under way.

  201. Jay Curtis says:

    Ashley Marie says:
    “I am giving a speech for a speech class playing the devils advocate of being against wind energy. So many thing because it’s GREEN, it is a great alternative.”

    Ashley, you’ve been sold a bill a goods about wind farms being “green.” They are most certainly NOT green. Have you ever visited one of these gigantic boondogles? They only exist to serve the needs of special interests like General Electric.

    The only way wind and solar are efficient is in small, local installations, not farms. It is all about milking the taxpayer, not about providing efficient power in low impact ways.

Comments are closed.