24 Hours of Climate Reality: Gore-a-thon – Hour 17

A new post containing a cartoon from Josh will appear every hour. At the end of the 24 hours, everything will be collated on a single page. Readers are encouraged to post skeptical arguments below, as well as offer comments on what has been seen from the Climate Reality Project so far.

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Windy whiligigs and Biomass are renewable.

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:

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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.

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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”:

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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.

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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:

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

KIFI logo

State Lawmakers Look At Wind Energy Moratorium

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35 Responses to 24 Hours of Climate Reality: Gore-a-thon – Hour 17

  1. rob m. says:

    Might lack of maintenance be due to lack of profitability?

  2. Chris H says:

    Wind turbines are the perfect symbol for the CAGW and green movements. Like the “science” they rely on vast public subsidy, vastly over rated claims of effectiveness and harm the very people they are supposed to be helping. Countless millions are pushed into fuel poverty by the inflated energy bills, countless millions more are penalised by the unnecessary taxes to pay the subsidies and those unfortunate to live near them have their sleep and health ruined and their property wealth trashed. The unequal battle between the well funded developers, governments besotted with the concept and greedy land owners (in the UK, at least, often disgracefully close) and local residents aided by a small band of largely retired scientists is a carbon copy (pun intended) of the finances of AGW beautifully described by Jo Nova in her SPPF document.
    Our descendents will look back and shake their heads at the stupidity and greed that left some of our best landscape littered with rusting 80m towers and marvel that our supposedly intelligent policy makers could be so foolish.

  3. TinyCO2 says:

    I don’t know whether everyone has picked that the sea level chart from the University of Colorado Sea Level Research Goup has been updated to the end of July 2011. Still flat :-)

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/2011rel2-global-mean-sea-level-time-series-seasonal-signals-removed

  4. RockyRoad says:

    rob m. says:
    September 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Might lack of maintenance be due to lack of profitability?

    Absolutely! Anything that’s profitable is maintainable. Anything that’s not profitable can’t afford maintenance in the budget. It’s a simple display of project economics–something the gung-ho developers never considered because they weren’t honest in their calculations from the onset.

  5. TinyCO2 says:

    A few timely wind and biofuel stories thanks to Tom Nelson.

    http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/editor-s-picks/cashback-as-storms-knock-wind-out-of-turbine-sails-1.1123616

    Windfarm bosses are expecting a huge payout after Hurricane Katia proved too gusty for the National Grid to handle.

    [more]

    But windfarm owners are likely to be in gales of laughter as they await a huge compensation cheque that could give them a windfall running into the millions.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/14/eu-biofuels-idUSLDE78D0FN20110914

    EU scientists say bioenergy laws based on false assumptions

    Possible impact of errors are “immense”, draft report says

    Warning adds to calls to revise EU bioenergy targets

    “Plants do absorb carbon, but this thinking makes a ‘baseline’ error because it fails to recognise that if bioenergy were not produced, land would typically grow plants anyway, and those plants would absorb carbon,” it said.

    The only true carbon savings are those made above and beyond the natural level of carbon sequestration in nature or crop cultivation. What matters is additional plant growth.

    [more]

  6. _Jim says:

    rob m. says on September 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Might lack of maintenance be due to lack of profitability?

    Bingo!

    As RockyRoad point outs, what’s first to get cut in the yearly operating budget?

    Maintenance; the not-so-inexpensive technical services that maintain “the equipment” (e.g. the men, the materials and supplies needed for continued long-lived in-spec operation of the wind mills … including oils, greases, bearing replacement costs, crane services for blade removal and hoisting, electrician services for wiring changes, repair from lightning damage, etc.)

    .

  7. eyesonu says:

    Very informative post. It’s worse than I thought.

    Looks like the idea of wind farms is being blown away.

  8. Przemysław Pawełczyk says:

    Quote – “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:”

    And where is the movie the text suggests?

    Regards

  9. Wait a minute. When the environmental movement started in the ’70s we were told that we had to preserve wild land and forests for future generations. Now the environmental movement of this generation is destroying both at a horrifying rate. For the sake of gathering taxpayer subsidies for machines that are worse than useless — generating practically nothing and destabilizing local grids.

    This is not merely insanity, it is criminal insanity. Click my name for more on the subject.

  10. Curiousgeorge says:

    The high maintenance costs of these pieces of machinery has always been known, but has always been downplayed. Just like airlines – maintenance is a huge expense – and when the company is strapped for cash it’s the first thing to get cut to the bone. You read about poor airline maintenance every month, and I’m not surprised at this on wind farms. Since these things have propellers, maybe the FAA should get involved.

  11. Przemysław Pawełczyk says:

    eyesonu says:
    September 15, 2011 at 9:49 am
    Very informative post. It’s worse than I thought.
    Looks like the idea of wind farms is being blown away.

    I’m sorry to say that but “not so fast”. Read what is planning in Europe. Germans are known for meticulous planning and precise works. I type the address with sort of sadness as I “hate” the windmills spoiling scenery. Germans were good at rocket science, maybe they equally good in the wind turbines technology and maintenance? I wish them well but I’d like them to scrap the plans.

    Germany’s First Offshore Wind Farm Goes Online
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,691699,00.html

    Regards

  12. Septic Matthew says:

    Miners die in coal mining accidents; citizens die from breathing smokestack emissions; oilers die in oil rig accidents; electricity causes deaths and fires; trains run off the tracks; ships sink, run aground, and get broken up in storms; aircraft crash when the engines explode. I could go on. What you have shown is that the adoption of wind as an energy source might be as error-prone as every other energy-related technology.

  13. pat says:

    These were only deployed to take advantage of various tax and governmental mandates. The power company needs to provide a certain percentage of power as green. it knows it cannot bother. It finds a contractor who puts up the turbine (built on China out of the cheapest parts) and reaps a fee plus a tax credit. The contractor sets up a shell company for operations and maintenance, closes the facility providing firm after 7 years (there is accelerated depreciation) with a 25% annual return on investment. After 7 years maintenance company declares bankruptcy. The power company is fully aware of the fraud as are most politicians. The cost is simply added to the power bill. The Greens do not care because they do not want people to be able to afford power at all.

  14. pat says:

    “Former CFO of ‘green’ group pleads guilty to fraud
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The former chief financial officer of a Knoxville nonprofit group that promotes energy from renewable sources has pleaded guilty to skimming federal funds.

    The group he worked for is a critic of TVA’s coal-fired power plants.

    Cameron J. Potter worked for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.”

    http://www.wsmv.com/story/15460759/former-cfo-of-green-group-pleads-guilty-to-fraud

  15. Curiousgeorge says:

    Some of the design problems with wind turbines:

    Wind turbines are built to catch the wind’s kinetic (motion) energy. You may therefore wonder why modern wind turbines are not built with a lot of rotor blades, like the old “American” windmills you have seen in the Western movies.

    Turbines with many blades or very wide blades, i.e. turbines with a very solid rotor, however, will be subject to very large forces, when the wind blows at a hurricane speed. (Remember, that the energy content of the wind varies with the third power (the cube) of the wind speed).

    Wind turbine manufacturers have to certify that their turbines are built, so that they can withstand extreme winds which occur, say, during 10 minutes once every 50 years.

    To limit the influence of the extreme winds turbine manufacturers therefore generally prefer to build turbines with a few, long, narrow blades.

    In order to make up for the narrowness of the blades facing the wind, turbine manufacturers prefer to let the turbines rotate relatively quickly.

    Fatigue Loads (Forces)

    Wind turbines are subject to fluctuating winds , and hence fluctuating forces. This is particularly the case if they are located in a very turbulent wind climate.

    Components which are subject to repeated bending, such as rotor blades, may eventually develop cracks which ultimately may make the component break. A historical example is the huge German Growian machine (100 m rotor diameter) which had to be taken out of service after less than three weeks of operation. Metal fatigue is a well known problem in many industries. Metal is therefore generally not favoured as a material for rotor blades.

    When designing a wind turbine it is extremely important to calculate in advance how the different components will vibrate, both individually, and jointly. It is also important to calculate the forces involved in each bending or stretching of a component.

    This is the subject of structural dynamics, where physicists have developed mathematical computer models that analyse the behaviour of an entire wind turbine.

    These models are used by wind turbine manufacturers to design their machines safely.

    Structural Dynamics: An Example *)

    A 50 metre tall wind turbine tower will have a tendency to swing back and forth, say, every three seconds. The frequency with which the tower oscillates back and forth is also known as the eigenfrequency of the tower. The eigenfrequency depends on both the height of the tower, the thickness of its walls, the type of steel, and the weight of the nacelle and rotor.

    Now, each time a rotor blade passes the wind shade of the tower, the rotor will push slightly less against the tower.

    If the rotor turns with a rotational speed such that a rotor blade passes the tower each time the tower is in one of its extreme positions, then the rotor blade may either dampen or amplify (reinforce) the oscillations of the tower.

    The rotor blades themselves are also flexible, and may have a tendency to vibrate, say, once per second. As you can see, it is very important to know the eigenfreqencies of each component in order to design a safe turbine that does not oscillate out of control.

    This is the kind of problem that “galloping gertie” ( Tacoma Narrows bridge ) faced when it came down back in 1940.

  16. DirkH says:

    Przemysław Pawełczyk says:
    September 15, 2011 at 10:10 am
    “windmills spoiling scenery. Germans were good at rocket science, maybe they equally good in the wind turbines technology and maintenance? I wish them well but I’d like them to scrap the plans.

    Germany’s First Offshore Wind Farm Goes Online

    Well, that’s from April last year; several of the turbines at Alpha Ventus – which is near the island Borkum – have already broken down due to gearbox damage I think. I hear that they look for lots of engineers. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea dangling from a helicopter, abseiling onto a platform on top of a 150m high wind turbine in the North Sea, in freezing winds, and German engineers can pick their jobs at the moment.

    So basically what they need is the adventurous kind of people who normally wouldn’t mind working on an offshore rig… Only that such a rig produces a million times more energy than a wind turbine… which severely affects the wages paid… Good luck with that.

    German electricity prizes will rise again next year and probably overtake Danish prizes, hey, a world record! The madness continues here unabated…

  17. Przemysław Pawełczyk says:

    Septic Matthew says:
    September 15, 2011 at 10:11 am

    “Miners die in coal mining accidents; citizens die from breathing smokestack emissions; oilers die in oil rig accidents; electricity causes deaths and fires; trains run off the tracks; ships sink, run aground, and get broken up in storms; aircraft crash when the engines explode.”

    Right. But no one pays for the “errors” with his own money. For windmills pay whole societies, from taxes. A cynical flow – a big cash from many to a few, with deep pockets of politicians open in the middle. Right?

    Regards

  18. john says:

    @ Jim,

    This is from a company known as First Wind. They have numerous shell and shelf companies including UPC renewables etc. This is from SEC filings to present. (they have not yet gone public).

    “Under the terms of our existing financial swaps, we are not obligated to physically deliver or
    purchase electricity.”( Selling to a foreign country is not mentioned here, so I presume it is mentioned in another SEC Report .)
    Amendment 7 to 2010 SEC report

    Table of Contents

    Risk Factors P.28

    Most of the information I have gotten is under Risk Factors of First Wind’s SEC Reports 2010 until the present.

    See cohocton wind watch for these filings.

    http://www.cohoctonwindwatch.blogspot.com/

  19. Przemysław Pawełczyk says:

    DirkH says:
    September 15, 2011 at 10:24 am
    “German electricity prizes will rise again next year and probably overtake Danish prizes, hey, a world record! The madness continues here unabated…”

    Many thanks! That’s what wanted to read. ;-) It always appears that stupidity costs like hell.

    Regards

  20. DirkH says:

    Here’a video filmed by a German repair technician on top of a turbine, with his colleague dangling from the nacelle, fixing or painting a blade.

    There’s a title in the end that says “I have to add, we risk our lifes for a measly pay and I hope some of the people responsible read this and can do something about that…”

    Well, I guess he’s out of luck there…. As big as these structures are, each one of them probably only produces the equivalent of 200 Euros worth of electricity per hour…unsubsidized prizes, assuming average production of 400 kWh. It’s all chump change.

  21. DirkH says:

    DirkH says:
    September 15, 2011 at 10:41 am
    “As big as these structures are, each one of them probably only produces the equivalent of 200 Euros worth of electricity per hour…unsubsidized prizes, assuming average production of 400 kWh. It’s all chump change.”

    Sorry, one zero too much – 5 cent worth per kWh times 400 means 20 EURos per hour. Can’t believe myself that it’s so low but there you go.

  22. Viv Evans says:

    We’re having problems with those wind mills in the UK as well. Having beens wiped by Hurricane Katia’s tail end over the weekend, this interesting item was reported:
    “THIRTEEN windfarms had to close during the gales — due to too much wind.
    National Grid boffins said the vast North Sea turbines were generating more electricity than the system could cope with as storms raged across Scotland.

    Some 650 megawatts of capacity was shut off — enough to power Bristol. National Grid must PAY the wind farm operators almost £2million for disconnecting, higher than the going rate for the actual power.

    The cost is passed on to households through energy bills.”
    Link:http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3812584/Windfarms-shut-by-too-much-wind.html

    So now we also pay for electricity which wasn’t even used …

    It is indeed worse than we thought.

  23. john says:

    In light of Ken Lay (Enron) helping Al start his carbon exchange.

    Flashback:

    Enron’s Democrat Pals
    http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,338580,00.html

    Before its messy decline and fall, Enron had plenty of clout in George W. Bush’s Washington, from the personal ties between chairman Ken Lay and the President to the company’s alleged influence on Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force. But Enron’s cozy relationship with Washington didn’t start there. Documents obtained by TIME show the energy giant enjoyed much closer ties with Clinton Administration regulators than was generally known.

    Note: this also coincides with deregulation, repeal of Glass Stegal (Gramm Leach Bliley) and the beginning of the Mortgage backed securities (and derivatives) mess.

  24. View from the Solent says:

    http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/renewables/2.1031/proven-energy-has-a-problem-1.1123939 via http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/9/15/beware-windfarms.html

    Another subsidy farm manufacturer about to go bust. With a warning that their windmill product must be disabled, if/when it’s possible.

  25. Ray says:

    I do agree that industrial winds mills are one of those bad electricity options. However, I don’t think it is fair to attack the use of biomass as alternative energy source. Some biomass sources are worst than others but some might actually give people in lots of places in the world a true source of hydrocarbon based energy that will take them out from the caves and bring them electricity.

    If there was one reason to switch to a biomass based fuel system (given the right selection) would be to give those that will need to live through the next ice age a chance to survive by using petrol-fuel that we should stop gouging and instead protect that resource just for that purpose, to save humanity when it will get cold and crops will fail.

  26. PaulID says:

    I live just below the windmills in Idaho they are talking about not only are they an eyesore but they destroy the nighttime sky with the constantly blinking lights on the top.

  27. DirkH says:

    View from the Solent says:
    September 15, 2011 at 10:58 am
    “Another subsidy farm manufacturer about to go bust. With a warning that their windmill product must be disabled, if/when it’s possible.”

    The affected turbine model, Proven 35-2, is a rather small model – 8.5 m rotor diameter. Not one of those “wind park” behemoths. Can’t milk a lot of subsidies.
    http://blog.silverford.com/2010/05/lets-compare-proven-wind-turbines-35-2-12-8-kw-10-5-kw-to-a-gaia-133-11-kw-wind-turbine/

  28. Stephen Brown says:

    As I write it is 2053 BST on September 15th. According to the official NETA figures wind has generated 0.7% of the electricity generated by all forms of energy in the last 24 hours. Coal has generated 33% and CCGT has generated 43% of the electricity being used in the UK.
    Wind power is NOT the answer!
    Up-dated figures available here: http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp_home.htm

  29. _Jim says:

    Septic Matthew says on September 15, 2011 at 10:11 am

    … citizens die from breathing smokestack emissions …

    So, you’ve seen (or written that) on an official death certificate?

    .

  30. _Jim says:

    DirkH says on September 15, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Here’a video filmed by a German repair technician on top of a turbine, with his colleague dangling from the nacelle, fixing or painting a blade. …

    Rock climbing/sheer cliff climbing skills put to good use … reminds me of the tower climbing crews we used to hire to hoist cell antennas (plus 1 5/8 Heliax) +200 foot up various towers, work they were insured to do along with a healthy complement of guts and necessary bravado

    .

  31. Roger Knights says:

    A colosal wreck.

  32. Roger Knights says:

    Oops–colossal

  33. Graeme says:

    Maintenance was always going to be a costly problem and I never believed the expected operational lifetimes of 20 to 25 years for windmills.

    For anyone with a job that involves the assessment of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of technical systems (which I have) windmills, along with a lot of green schemes, never made sense.

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