Simulation in the ‘Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy’ provides new insight into best arrangement of wind turbines on large installations

The figure shows a three-dimensional visualization of the flow in a simulated wind-farm. The blue regions show a volume rendering of low-velocity wind regions. These low velocity regions are primarily found in the meandering wakes behind the turbines. Credit: JHU LES/Bock/XSEDE

From the Wind energy: On the grid, off the checkerboard

WASHINGTON D.C., April 1, 2014 — As wind farms grow in importance across the globe as sources of clean, renewable energy, one key consideration in their construction is their physical design — spacing and orienting individual turbines to maximize their efficiency and minimize any “wake effects,” where the swooping blades of one reduces the energy in the wind available for the following turbine.

Optimally spacing turbines allows them to capture more wind, produce more power and increase revenue for the farm. Knowing this, designers in the industry typically apply simple computer models to help determine the best arrangements of the turbines. This works well for small wind farms but becomes less precise for larger wind-farms where the wakes interact with one another and the overall effect is harder to predict.

Now a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has developed a new way to study wake effects that takes into account the airflow both within and around a wind farm and challenges the conventional belief that turbines arrayed in checker board patterns produce the highest power output. Their study provides insight into factors that determine the most favorable positioning — work described in a new paper in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, which is produced by AIP Publishing.

This insight is important for wind project designers in the future to configure turbine farms for increased power output — especially in places with strong prevailing winds.

“It’s important to consider these configurations in test cases,” said Richard Stevens, who conducted the research with Charles Meneveau and Dennice Gayme at JHU. “If turbines are built in a non-optimal arrangement, the amount of electricity produced would be less and so would the revenue of the wind farm.”

How Wind Farms are Currently Designed

Many considerations go into the design of a wind farm. The most ideal turbine arrangement will differ depending on location. The specific topology of the landscape, whether hilly or flat, and the yearlong weather patterns at that site both dictate the specific designs. Political and social considerations may also factor in the choice of sites.

Common test cases to study wind-farm behavior are wind farms in which turbines are either installed in rows, which will be aligned against the prevailing winds, or in staggered, checkerboard-style blocks where each row of turbines is spaced to peek out between the gaps in the previous row.

Staggered farms are generally preferred because they harvest more energy in a smaller footprint, but what Stevens and his colleagues showed is that the checkerboard style can be improved in some cases.

Specifically, they found that better power output may be obtained through an “intermediate” staggering, where each row is imperfectly offset — like a checkerboard that has slipped slightly out of whack.

###

 

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (grant #CBET 1133800 and #OISE 1243482) and by a “Fellowship for Young Energy Scientists” awarded by the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter in the Netherlands. The work used XSEDE (NSF) and SURFsara (Netherlands) computer resources.

The article, “Large Eddy Simulation studies of the effects of alignment and wind farm length” is authored by Richard J. A. M. Stevens, Dennice F. Gayme and Charles Meneveau. It will be published in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy on April 1, 2014 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4869568). After that date, it can be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/n9o282o

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104 thoughts on “Simulation in the ‘Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy’ provides new insight into best arrangement of wind turbines on large installations

  1. The best possible arrangement for designing wind farms can be summarized in one word.

    Don’t

  2. “As wind farms GROW IN IMPORTANCE as sources of clean renewable energy ….. “.
    Well, I suppose it is still the morning of the 1st. of April somewhere.

  3. Optimally spacing turbines allows them to capture more wind, produce more power and increase revenue for the farm.

    ====================================================================
    “Optimally spacing turbines allows them to chop more birds, produce more intermittent power and increase subsidies for the farm while reducing actual crop land.”
    There. Fixed it.

  4. Modeling the production of static electricity produced from cats would be of more benefit.

  5. Hei Anthony.
    You reporting from this fantasy world, – how are we going to detect your 1 April joke?

  6. It makes sense to me at a glance that you do not position the turbines to get optimal exposure to the prevailing winds. Getting blade movement from the prevailing winds is easy and there is plenty of prevailing wind time. It’s the non prevailing wind time that you need to work at to get better overall efficiency. The difficult part is getting max output when the winds are not from the prevailing direction. So you would want to optimize wind harvest from the non-prevailing directions. Which to me means setting up turbines in a straight line into the prevailing directions, so when the winds are not from the prevailing direction they are more at a checker board pattern into that wind. Overall efficiency will go up.

  7. As wind farms GROW IN IMPORTANCE as sources of clean renewable energy

    ============================================================
    I read that it’s been proposed to cut the subsidies to solar power farms. Opponents of the cuts say that would devastate the solar power industry. Maybe that’s why wind farms will grow importan$e?

  8. As if this is a new issue. (eye roll)

    Just another transparently obvious publicity ploy to bolster the stock price of the windmill investors. THAT is why Warren Buffett announced his huge order of Siemens windmill technology last fall. He has that kind of cash to throw at a failing part of his portfolio in order to create the illusion that windmills are a going concern (desperately, oh, yes, DESPERATLY, trying to shore up that ol’ stock price … watch him sell …… any day now……..) — Ha! Only the very naïve and ignorant (of the reality of what is happening around the world with tax subsidies for windpower) will be fooled. SELL NOW! Windmill-based investments are headed dooowwwwn.

    Wind’s ROI (without heavy taxpayer subsidies) is ETERNALLY NEGATIVE.

    Here’s why — Windmills, no matter how you arrange them on the chessboard, ARE NEVER GOING TO BE EFFICIENT SOURCES OF ENERGY (for the modern world):

    “Electricity Costs — the Folly of Windpower” by Ruth Lea
    {an economic analysis}

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/economy/electricitycosts2012.pdf

  9. Just a little reminder that windmills, for no net benefit, are killing birds by the thousands — every — day.

    Reporting from Tehachapi, CA:

  10. When the power and materials used to make giant windmills are free, then windmills will be an efficient way to generate power, which you won’t be able to sell, because it’s free.

    I’m not saying it will never ever be possible, I’m just saying lottery tickets may be more efficient in the near future.

    Countdown to the next Airborne Wind Turbine proposal in 3… 2… 1…

  11. Is there ever any concern expressed about the possibility of wind turbines affecting the weather at the local level? If you harvest enough of the winds energy, I would think it would transform from a geostrophic-like to friction dominated just downwind of the wind farm, with an associated hook to the left. Not sure what difference that would make to anyone, might be interesting to study though.

  12. And some physics to explain why windmills are eternally inefficient:

    “Betz’ law (Year 1919) says that one can only convert not more
    than 16/27 (or 59%) of the kinetic energy in the wind to
    mechanical energy using a wind turbine.”

    Source (at page 4) : http://www.engineering.uiowa.edu/~ie_155/Lecture/Energy_Output.pdf

    {Thank you to D. J. Hawkins who posted the above link here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/10/theres-a-reason-the-modern-age-moved-on-from-windmills/#comment-860177}

  13. This probably is also the optimal method for arranging the turbine to produce the greatest
    bird killings. I still wonder where those Whooping Cranes went to that apparently have been lost track of. My guess is that wind turbines are driving them to extinction.
    Now if they could only find a way to ensure a constant suppy of wind.

  14. Not clean (death to birds and ground-dwelling creatures alike, a whole new array of pollutants); not renewable (zillions of acres of land consumed in these monstrosities – plus any amount of not exactly renewable fossil fuels burning for spinning reserve and quick start units).

  15. Recently a school student won a prize for a solar powered streetlight design that used many small cells distributed like leaves on a tree. He figured that trees have worked out the most efficient arrangements to catch solar energy and they don’t line up their leaves or have them all point the same way.

    He was right. It produced more energy per day than a fixed flat panel oriented due south.

    My guess is that this is the same kind of effect.

  16. Janice Moore says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    And some physics to explain why windmills are eternally inefficient:

    “Betz’ law (Year 1919) says that one can only convert not more
    than 16/27 (or 59%) of the kinetic energy in the wind to
    mechanical energy using a wind turbine.”

    Great work Janice. You’ve just discovered that converting energy from one form to another is not 100% efficient. Now would you like to research how efficiently burning gas or coal or uranium fission is for producing electricity and post the answer. [Hint it's less than 59%] While you’re there how efficient is an internal combustion engine at converting chemical energy into vehicle kinetic energy? [Hint it's less than 59%]

    Also if you learnt the difference between a windmill and wind-turbine you may look like you at least had half an idea what you were talking about.

  17. One of the main problems with wind is turbulence Intensity (TI). This measurement had been used in wind studies for years and I cannot believe that these idiots have never considered it (I know they do what they do for money), and were dishonest enough to omit that very important aspect.

    Factors that contribute to this (TI) would be areal terrain and other obstructions. For those who need to visualize this. You car is most efficient driving on nice paved, level ground. Then try this driving down railroad tracks. It will reduce the fuel you use substantially (efficiency), AND more importantly, beat the hell out of you car.

    That is what happens. I’ve measured it.

  18. Greg says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Great work Janice. You’ve just discovered that converting energy from one form to another is not 100% efficient. Now would you like to research how efficiently burning gas or coal or uranium fission is for producing electricity and post the answer. [Hint it's less than 59%] While you’re there how efficient is an internal combustion engine at converting chemical energy into vehicle kinetic energy? [Hint it's less than 59%]

    ======================================================================
    If only those less efficient forms of energy could supply the steady flow of electricity that the power grid depends on like those windthings do.

  19. From the article: “It should be noted that this work does not claim to provide or propose an optimal layout of wind farms in general. Determining the optimal layout of an actual wind farm depends critically upon annual distributions of wind alignment, site-specific wind roses, and is beyond the scope of the present work.”

    What a useful piece of work! Renewable energy at its best.

  20. @ Janice Moore:

    Actually, Buffett’s corporation, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) stock is doing quite well. The price has about doubled in 30 months ($66 to $125 per share). The A-shares of his stock increased 80 percent in the same period. You are welcome.

    Buffett’s recent purchase of 440-plus Siemens 2.5 MW windturbines is valued at just over $1 billion, for a cost per kW of $1000.

    Isn’t it odd that Buffett, the investing genius, chose to purchase windturbines and not a nuclear power plant? He could easily write a check for either one, and is one of the few individuals in the world who can actually do that.

    In fact, Buffett has a standing invitation for anybody with a big business, several billion dollars worth, to contact him because he wants to buy more very good businesses. His Berkshire Hathaway generates approximately $2 billion per month in cash that he needs to re-invest in other businesses. Isn’t it odd, Janice, that he is not building any nuclear power plants? (That’s not quite correct, actually, he purchased a small interest in one nuclear plant when he bought MidAmerican Energy, an Iowa utility. It came with the deal).

  21. “The article, “Large Eddy Simulation studies of the effects of alignment and wind farm length” is authored by Richard J. A. M. Stevens, Dennice F. Gayme and Charles Meneveau.”….

    Great. First we have Fat Albert, now we have Large Eddy….it doesn’t look like anyone bothered to model the birds… (fowl weather?).

    The hottest air of all is coming from these pollyana studies purporting to be science but only harvesting taxpayers money, and pretty much destroying everything else in their wake.

    Have any of these “scientists” lived anywhere NEAR these turbines? At NIGHT, when it would otherwise be quiet? During the day, when the shadow(s) does/do a virtual “water-drop-torture” for the poor folks living within range?

    I lived near the disaster of the Altamont wind farm, and from a distance, it was almost graceful. Up close, it was horrifying…noise, bird and turbine parts (yep, most of them were broken), etc.

    Funny how windmills get a pass on killing Eagles, Raptors, etc., but we probably end up in jail, even if we accidentally did it…..

  22. Lots of anti-modeling comments on here, which makes me sad. This kind of optimization is important in its own right for those people who want to build their own farms. Regardless of anyone’s views on AGW, pushing efficiency of energy production should be a goal we can all agree on. Rotor wake modeling, while still a bit magic, isn’t as shoddy as climate modeling. People still try to make their models match real test data, and the general physical principles (turbulence, friction, etc.) are known to exist, even if imperfectly. Plus, we can build and test smaller scale farms to help validate these models. Can’t do that with the climate!

    Contrast that with climate modeling, which we aren’t even sure has all the right physical events occurring. Yes, models are only as good as their assumptions. Some models have much better assumptions. Because of those models, we have helicopters and planes and all kinds of good stuff. Let’s not be against good engineering, and be open to all kinds of ways to supply power.

    “What a useful piece of work! ”

    It is. Once you have a modeling framework set up that can take in uncertain inputs, you can do a lot of good work in finding robust solutions to real problems.

    I’m not for having government-forced and over-subsidized wind farms, but if we can figure out a way to make them efficient enough to be competitive, why not have them?

  23. I was working in (literally in the test section) of a US Air Force wind tunnel one day, setting up for some testing, when windmills came up. In there, someone asked a question that made us all realize just how odd our perspective was:

    How many windmills will be placed before there is a noticeable effect on the earth’s rotation due to the associated drag?

    As for this study…it’s not exactly that mind blowing. There are a lot of things they could do to improve things beyond left/right offset. They could also look at the number of diameters downstream that the vortex core has fully burst (where a far field assumption is again valid), counter-rotating windmill staggers, boat-tail design, and maybe some other fun three-dimensional effect ideas.

  24. “Greg says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm
    … you may look like you at least had half an idea what you were talking about.”

    Greg, it’s not what one “looks like”, it’s what one says.
    Civility and courtesy often help in presenting one’s points…

    Turbines are often called windmills, by the, erm, “great unwashed” – they are simply a refinement
    of a centuries-old machine, not a new one….

  25. The boundary layer wind tunnel at the University of Western Ontario did a lot of tests on this in 1976 or so. It turned out that the ideal spacing of the turbines was 28 turbine diameters downwind. Somehow I do not this that the physics has changed in the intervening time.

  26. Greg says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Janice Moore says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm
    “Betz’ law (Year 1919) says that one can only convert not more
    than 16/27 (or 59%) of the kinetic energy in the wind to
    mechanical energy using a wind turbine.”

    “Great work Janice. You’ve just discovered that converting energy from one form to another is not 100% efficient. Now would you like to research how efficiently burning gas or coal or uranium fission is for producing electricity.”

    Nice try Greg. Janice’s point is 59% is the best we can do to convert wind energy to MECHANICAL energy. Now we have to convert mechtricityl to electricity. Now would you like to research how efficiently the mechanical is converted to electrical. At 59% you have achieved the best you can get BEFORE it can be converted to power. Would you be surprised that the average Windpower capacity is something below 20%?

  27. Yes, Jeff, indeed. And, thanks for the support.

    I just chuckle at the “Greg’s” and R.S.’s of the world. It really upsets them when someone uses a pejorative characterization of something to which they are committed with all their naive hearts. Wind-MILLS, just like blunderbusses, Model A’s, and 8 track tape players, have had their day, many years ago… .

    They are NOW obsolete.

    “Large Eddy” — LOVE it. #(:))

  28. Given that these windmills have so far failed to return the energy that went into constructing and erecting them, why bother?
    A more efficient and there for more ecologically pure solution, would be to just burn the fossil fuels to carry out our tasks.
    There is something deranged about wasting resources to build energy producers that do not reward your investment, or provide reliable power.
    Must be alternate energy, it works in an alternate universe and on alternate days.

  29. Looks like a perfect arrangement to kill the maximum birds in a flock at the same time

  30. I thought the whole idea behind a wind turbine was to take energy out of the air. ?

    So how long has it taken for them to realize that this happens.

    So do they disclose this in their environmental impact statement. ??

    Can down wind land owners, sue for the loss of wind energy over their properties, and the damage they receive as a result ??

  31. Thanks, Gary Pearse (btw: HOW ARE YOU DOING, ol’ WUWT buddy, ol pal? Long time not talk! Hope all is well up there!).

    Greg obviously did not go to page 7 of that excellent report I linked for him. There, it says (inter alia):
    “The capacity factor may theoretically vary from 0 to 100%,
    but in practice it usually is 20% to 70%.”

    Greg, I guess I did not communicate thoroughly enough. The Betz quote was only the crux of the issue — I left it to you to look up the rest of the science in that source I linked. I didn’t think it would be necessary to write a synopsis of the article for you.

    That report is quite brief in itself but has NUMEROUS links to detailed physics/mechanical engineering explanations…. that is, if someone is really interested in LEARNING… .

    Re: the discourtesy, Jeff, yes, it is interesting that both windmill promoters, here, G. and R.S., chose to call me “Janice” without my permission. I would think that Ms. Moore would have been the respectful thing to do… . AND THAT’S JUST FINE! They are doing a GREAT job of showing what type of person is in favor of forcing taxpayers to subsidize anachronistic technology!

    BTW: All you guys who know I don’t mind your calling me “Janice” — please do continue to do so!
    #(:))

  32. “Roger Sowell says:
    April 1, 2014 at 4:25 pm ”

    Warren Buffet is simply doing that which nets him the most money. Whether it is scientifically, environmentally, or philosophically (as a catchall term) correct to do is of limited or no interest to him. BH is in the business of making money, often from those of us who have substantially less than Mr. Buffet.

    Those who travel in the circles that he does (often meeting at Davos or Bohemian-club-type affairs) can influence the investment enrvironment simply due to the size of their investments and their connections, etc.

    That doesn’t make it “right”, on a number of levels. He could probably shake up the carbon credit market, if he felt like it. Wasn’t that long ago that the Hunt brothers made substantial waves in the silver market – it could well happen again, different folks, different markets.

    All of his money won’t cure the blight the turbines make on the landscape, nor will it bring back the birds killed by them. And, as I said elsewhere, they are not pleasant when they are nearby (and I doubt that he would want one in his backyard(s)).

    Again, a questionable solution to a nonexistent problem costing more money than it’s worth
    (cf. Cameron in the UK and his subsidised “farms”).

  33. Dear Mr. George E. Smith (I’d better take my own advice!),

    How is your sister? I prayed. Hope all is well. And how is college going for your son?

    Your WUWT pal who hopes you will call her,

    Janice

  34. I wish they would stop calling these industrial wind installations “farms”. They are most definitely NOT farms in any sense, as there are no agricultural activities at these compounds.

  35. Roger Sowell says:
    April 1, 2014 at 4:25 pm
    “…

    Isn’t it odd that Buffett, the investing genius, chose to purchase windturbines and not a nuclear power plant? He could easily write a check for either one, and is one of the few individuals in the world who can actually do that.

    [+emphasis]

    I have followed and read many of your very cogent posts on WUWT, but in the above statement don’t you think that Buffett’s choice between wind and nuclear would be largely related to the very involved permitting process in anything “nuclear”?

  36. “PaulH says:
    April 1, 2014 at 5:41 pm
    I wish they would stop calling these industrial wind installations “farms”. They are most definitely NOT farms in any sense, as there are no agricultural activities at these compounds.”

    Yes, a better term perhaps would be “anti-farm”, or anti-creature. I do believe there was some effort to do ranching near or on the Altamont land (I won’t get into the farming versus ranching debate going on over there…).

    Unfortunately “farm” has become a collective noun for a number of things in the computer industry (render farm, server farm, in the old days modem farm….) and other industries as well. I suspect most of the folks in the non-agricultural businesses have not actually “farmed” in the real sense of the word….(sad, that)…

    If all these carbon taxes, etc. keep siphoning off our money, we may all learn about REAL farms, whether we want to or not….:) or was tnat :(…..

  37. I like the ideal spacing of turbines: 28 rotor diameters downwind. We know! Now let’s make sure the wind blows always from one direction .. or maybe we can rotate the landscape .. and we can always use an eminent domain to build a turbine another 28 rotor diameters downwind.

  38. May as well introduce some economic reality I suppose. Just finished an article published by the AmericanTradition Institute called “The Hidden Costs of Wind Energy” which examines all those nasty side effect costs that wind proponents never seem to include in their estimates of costs.
    In short, the study starts off with the costs of the turbines, actually using a lower estimate than used by the Energy Information Agency (EIA). But then it knows enough to take subsidies into account, as well as the costs of maintaining backup plants, as well as the increased fuel costs at those plants (per unit generated) and finally the transmission costs, both now and in the future
    as wind farms spread out geographically. They also discovered that the cost of wind depends upon whether coal or natural gas provides the backup capacity. There figures show the total cost of wind (kWhr) when backed up by coal to be 19.2 cents and 15.1 cents when backed up by
    natural gas power plants. My research into the unit production costs expected from Gen 3 + power plants (those currently being built) has provided me with confidence that the costs will approximate 4 cents per kWhr here in the U.S.(a little more or a little less), but less in China and Russia and India (probably closer to 3 cents per kWhr, due primarily to lower build costs and operational costs). Since nuclear fuel costs are unlikely to increase (and also
    constitute a relatively small portion of nuclear generation costs, so any increases will not
    significantly affect retail prices) the costs of nuclear power should be quite steady, as it has been for decades.

  39. @ george sowell : Even he needs a tax write [off] at times! ( and being in his eighties is allowed a mistake or two :-) )

  40. @ F. Ross at April 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I have followed and read many of your very cogent posts on WUWT, but in the above statement don’t you think that Buffett’s choice between wind and nuclear would be largely related to the very involved permitting process in anything “nuclear”?”

    My comment was made primarily to annoy Miss or Mrs or Ms as the case may be, Janice Moore, who is so easily offended yet speaks disparagingly as she (one presumes the feminine gender, but one never knows) pleases. It is a carry-over from earlier posts and her sharp exchanges whenever “noocular” energy is mentioned. “Noocular” energy is the end-all, be-all, and Lordy-its-gonna-save-us-all choice for power generation, if one were to ask Miss/Mrs/Ms Janice Moore. It’s a Pavlovian response, a hot button, apparently. Just watch, Moore will go ballistic (dare I say Nuclear?) in her responses below.

    As to your question on Buffett, I suspect that he can navigate the permitting requirements quite well, should he choose to do so. It is also interesting, given that he has been a premier investor for nearly 50 years, that he has never purchased a nuclear utility even when they were the darlings of the utility industry. He could have, but he did not. Surely, that says volumes about the profit potential of nuclear power plants.

  41. Greg says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    The claim to greater efficiency in the tree-leaf solar panel was in reality a mistaken method of calculating efficiency.

  42. It is also interesting that Buffet is into oil carrying railway cars. Which tends to suggest he believes in spreading the risk. Not an intrinsic belief in wind power.

  43. Regardless of anyone’s views on AGW, pushing efficiency of energy production should be a goal we can all agree on.

    Absolutely correct. I’ve become skeptical of the global warming story for a number of reasons, but the misuse of climate modeling by no means invalidates modeling, science, or engineering. It dictates humility, ongoing inquiry, rigorous integrity, and the willingness to re-engineer.

    I have mixed feelings about wind turbines. I think they’re eyesores and therefore should be sited in places with lots of wind but without scenic value. Most of North Dakota comes to mind. There are other places as well. And while they’re of limited utility with respect to providing baseload, they can be a very cost effective supplement.

    http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

    The same applies to solar power if, and only if, it’s deployed at low latitudes in sunny places. Rooftops in the American Southwest come to mind. Also, solar hot water heating can be very effective, and far cheaper than PV cells, as well as useful at much higher latitudes. And ground-source heat pumps are an excellent way to improve the efficiency of HVAC systems.

    None of these things need conflict with skepticism of global warming. True, some of the eco-fakers take them too far, and they need to be resisted, but with facts rather than reflexive bile. There shouldn’t be any resistance to the most efficient use of resources wherever they come from.

  44. And some physics to explain why windmills are eternally inefficient:

    “Betz’ law (Year 1919) says that one can only convert not more
    than 16/27 (or 59%) of the kinetic energy in the wind to
    mechanical energy using a wind turbine.”

    Oh please. Only 59% efficient? That’s a GREAT number if true. Compare it, if you will, to the efficiency of an internal combustion engine, which sends more than 75% of the energy content of gasoline into the air as heat and vibration. We tolerate this because of the extraordinary energy density, portability, and relative cheapness of gas. But it’s terribly inefficient.

    Electric vehicles are much, much more efficient, converting at least 75% of the electricity at the plug into motive power even after losses in conversion and storage. The issue there is the low energy density and high cost of batteries.

    Battery technology remains relatively primitive, but even primitive lithium-ion batteries will soon make electric commuter cars a viable mass-market proposition. Stick a 60 kWh battery in a car and find a way to make that battery for $5,000 and you’re off to the races. I think that’ll happen through a combination of manufacturing scale economies and reduction of rare earth materials.

    If there are further breakthroughs, the advantages of electric motive power will become unmistakable and undeniable. None of this is one bit incompatible with skepticism with respect to (what I see, anyway) as the collapsing AGW hypothesis.

  45. One point that wind plant proponents always seem to forget is this. If you have a wind power plant it is taking energy out of the wind (energy can only be in one place at one time). That is going to affect weather patterns as in change the climate. Do you see the hyprocrisy here? To stop climate change we need to use wind power that will cause … climate change. By the way if wind power is not affecting weather patterns, then it is not extracting enough energy to make any useful contribution to energy production anyway so it is only killing birds and bats.

  46. “…into best arrangement of wind turbines on large installations.”

    The best arrangement for securing more tax credits and government subsidies?

  47. Greg says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    A windmill is a windmill.

    A turbine in reality is a fancy name for a machine that employs the Brayton cycle.

    To call a windmill a turbine is disingenuous at best.

  48. Jake J says:
    April 1, 2014 at 7:48 pm
    ======================
    I’ve seen electrics outrun NASCAR cars in one lap because they generate maximum torque at any speed. However, that battery thing is still a problem. When the all knowing gubmint finally puts 100,000,000 electrics on the road, I’m going to get a big box of popcorn and an adult beverage, pull up a chair in the cool evening air, and watch the sky light up when 100,000,000 chargers kick on. Should be quite a show for at least a few seconds. The view from space should be fantastic watching all those HV lines melt. Shutting down power plants and exponentially raising the demand is a stroke of pure genius.

  49. Jake J,

    The focus of battery research for the last hundred years has been smaller, lighter, and higher capacity. However, after a hundred years of development, there is still nothing that can beat yea olde lead acid battery for charge/discharge cycle lifespan for rechargeable batteries. This is why Lead acid batteries are still the go to storage medium for uses where weight and bulk don’t matter such as building level backup power.

    A truly practical electric car requires a major change in the direction of batter research.

    Here are the things that I would look for to call an all electric car practical:

    1. Range equivalent to similar size / category gas cars. Getting close but not quite there yet.
    2. Recharge time no more than 2-3 times what it takes to fill the gas tank on a similar size / category gas car. Recharge stations as ubiquitous as gas stations. Current tech is nowhere near this one. I do a couple of trips a year where it takes 2 or more tanks of gas to reach my destination, overnight charging after 200-300 miles is not acceptable.
    3. Battery lifespan similar to the lifespan of the car’s chassis. How often do you hear about someone having to replace the gas tank on a 10 year old car.

    What you need to convince me to actually buy an electric vehicle:

    1. All of the above in SUV or Pickup class vehicle with minimum 7000lb tow capacity.
    2. Must match the range of the gas version at max tow capacity as well as empty.
    3. Price premium over equivalent gas vehicle no more than 5%.

  50. “”””””……Box of Rocks says:

    April 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Greg says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    A windmill is a windmill…….””””””

    I have always considered the word turbine, to apply only to the mechanical contrivance that converts the energy of a moving fluid, into rotary motion of a mechanical shaft.

    This definition fits the description of that mechanism at the back end of a “jet” engine, aka a gas “turbine”, and also the device in the exhaust of an ICE, that is used to drive a “turbocharger”, and it fits the device that is water driven, and is used to rotate an “alternator” in a hydro-electric power station.

    So in my view, a windmill is simply a turbine that is used to drive a grain grinding machine (mill) ; but it is still a “turbine.”

    Well a lot of “windmill” turbines, are actually driving crude reciprocating pumps for well water.

    So where’s the disingenuity, in calling a windmill, a turbine.

    As for those huge “wind turbines”, they are just fancy windmills, that are also used to drive an alternator, to generate electricity. I’m sure they also do some grinding on the gears in their gear boxes, because of the rotary and axial oscillations of the windmill propeller blades due to vertical wind shear. They eventually shake themselves to pieces.

  51. Green energy waste steam of rare earths tosses away enough Thorium yearly to power the entire planet. Building bird blenders makes no sense on energy efficiencies, densities, 24×7 power, blight of hillsides, human impacts and only by government subsidies.

  52. “””””…..James the Elder says:

    April 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Jake J says:
    April 1, 2014 at 7:48 pm
    ======================
    I’ve seen electrics outrun NASCAR cars in one lap because they generate maximum torque at any speed. …..”””””

    Well actually, electric cars generate maximum torque, only at zero speed, with the rotor stalled.

    Once they are moving, the electric motor becomes a generator, producing a back EMF that opposes the applied Voltage; so the torque must drop, since it is directly proportional to the current flow. Unless you have some fancy variable Voltage battery, that raises the applied drive Voltage, with the rotor RPM, you can’t maintain the maximum rotor current once it is rotating.

    None of which refutes your statement that an electric can outrun a NASCAR auto in one lap.

  53. per Jake J
    “””””…..Electric vehicles are much, much more efficient, converting at least 75% of the electricity at the plug into motive power even after losses in conversion and storage. The issue there is the low energy density and high cost of batteries.

    Battery technology remains relatively primitive, but even primitive lithium-ion batteries will soon make electric commuter cars a viable mass-market proposition. Stick a 60 kWh battery in a car and find a way to make that battery for $5,000 and you’re off to the races. I think that’ll happen through a combination of manufacturing scale economies and reduction of rare earth materials…….”””””

    So what are we converting to “motive power” ? The electricity available at the battery “plug”, or the electricity available at the plug in the garage, that feeds the battery charger ??

    When you say conversion and storage, that to me implies that your 75% includes the house AC to DC conversion, the charging efficiency of the battery, and the battery to electric motor, and transmission losses.

    The Tesla model S has a gear train, including a differential, just like an ordinary auto has, although their gear train is apparently just a fixed rpm step down conversion. I assume their differential is at about 92% efficiency, just like other autos.

    Today’s computer power supplies are at about 85% efficiency, and I don’t see that going up, if you raise the power to 60 KW which would take over an hour to charge your 60 KWh battery. I don’t know what the charge-discharge efficiency is for Li-ion batteries, but my laptop batteries get quite hot, so I doubt they are very high recycle efficiency (like >90%).

    But why ignore all that nastiness that goes on at the coal fired power plant.

    And what to rare earths have to do with battery technology ??

  54. Roger Sowell Apr 1 6:46pm says “[Buffett] has never purchased a nuclear utility even when they were the darlings of the utility industry. He could have, but he did not. Surely, that says volumes about the profit potential of nuclear power plants.“. There’s often an alternative explanation. Buffett only invests in businesses he understands.

  55. However, that battery thing is still a problem. When the all knowing gubmint finally puts 100,000,000 electrics on the road, I’m going to get a big box of popcorn and an adult beverage, pull up a chair in the cool evening air, and watch the sky light up when 100,000,000 chargers kick on.

    That’s just foolish. An electric car recharges on an electric dryer circuit. If every car was electric (something that wouldn’t happen for 50 years at the very least), the total electricity demand would grow 20%. If THAT many people charged ‘em at once, those telephone pole transformers might need upgrades. No biggie.

  56. @Matt S, the market for electric cars is not going to be all-or-nothing, Very few things are. It started with hard-core geeks 20 years ago. Now it’s early adopters, the curious, and status-seekers, i.e., the Tesla Model S buyers.

    Stick a 60 kWh gas tank in the vehicle, and make it cheap enough, and the next segment will be second-car commuters. Not all of them, but a much bigger segment than today. (A 60 kWh battery will deliver a rock-sold 140-mile practical winter range in 90% of the United States, “practical” meaning how far it’ll go on 80% of the battery’s power.)

    Your requirement is for a does-everything car, i.e. one you can take out of town. I completely agree with your specifications for such a vehicle, and think it’ll be a long time before electrics can fulfill them. But there are 250 million passenger vehicles out there; 35% of households own two vehicles, and 20% own three or more.

    There is definitely a market for shorter-range commuter cars. Electrics aren’t quite there yet, but they are close. Because of their efficiency, electric drivetrains get 3 to 3.5 times the fuel economy as gasoline. The fuel is cheaper, and the mechanics are far simpler and cheaper (no oil changes; engines much simpler; no transmissions; no exhaust systems). The issue is the expense of the gas tank, and the low energy density of the battery. Period.

    I’ve followed electrics closely. I am not an “EVangelist” but rather a rock-hard realist about them.

  57. When you say conversion and storage, that to me implies that your 75% includes the house AC to DC conversion, the charging efficiency of the battery, and the battery to electric motor, and transmission losses.

    All of that except for transmission losses, which are 6-7%. I don’t include them because to include electricity transmission losses would require including the energy expenditure in moving gasoline from refineries to pumps. I don’t know that number, or where to find it. Therefore, when comparing efficiency I compare gas pump to wheels to electric outlet to wheels.

  58. But why ignore all that nastiness that goes on at the coal fired power plant.

    I don’t. What I do, however, is think about how we generate electricity in this country.

    – 39% coal
    – 28% natural gas
    – 19% nuke
    – 7% hydro
    – 4% wind
    – 3% other (solar, biomass, geothermal, oil)

    Over time, coal will go down towards 30% and natural gas will rise toward 35-40%. Wind will rise toward 10%. Solar will rise toward 5%.

    And what to rare earths have to do with battery technology ??

    Rare earths have been a required component of lithium-ion batteries, but the amounts are steadily declining. If you believe press releases (a big “if”), rare earths might be eliminated entirely, which would make batteries somewhat cheaper.

  59. One other thing I’d point out. The only reason diesel train locomotives are diesel is because batteries are so weak relative to hydrocarbon fuel energy density. The diesel engines don’t power the wheels; that’s done by electric motors because of their torque. The diesel engines run generators that feed the electric motors that turn the wheels.

    The point to explaining this is that electric transportation has been around for a very long time. The issue has ALWAYS been that batteries can’t hold enough juice. That’s changing for cars. We’re getting very close to the point where electricity will peel away a substantial segment of the car market.

    If batteries ever do get the energy density of gas or diesel, at a reasonable cost, there’d be no reason to burn petroleum distillates in cars and trucks. And this would have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not (probably not, in my view) the AGW hypothesis is true.

  60. Jake, electric cars for short journeys are a technology that may come – the problem is, as you have clearly stated, the batteries. But it is not just the capacity that is the issue (in fact that is a minor issue for short ranges), the problem is the longevity of the battery pack and the enormous cost, both financial and in natural resources, of replacing them every few years.

    And I already know the best arrangement for wind turbines. It’s in a scrapyard, lined up side by side, waiting to be recycled into something useful.

  61. Bertram, we’ll see what the longevity winds up being. Near as I can tell, after 100K miles a lithium-ion battery will have 80% of its original capacity, so I think a full life will approach if not equal that of the car. I don’t particularly worry about natural resource costs, if rare earths can be reduced or eliminated. But yes, cost is a big issue.

  62. Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy

    Are these windmills renewable?

    Not really, they are made of:

    Steels.
    Concrete,
    Carbon fibre.

    As far as I am aware, concrete is not recycled into new concrete.

    Carbon Fibre blades are not recyclable.

    Steel or metals of various types can be recycled at a cost.

    Energy use in construction and the small amount of recycling of these devices.

    Cement uses lots of electricity in its manufacture.

    Carbon Fibre is oil based.

    How, in any way shape or form, can windturbines be called renewable or efficient?

  63. @redc1c4

    i put this link in the “Tips” page a few weeks back, but maybe folks on this thread will find it interesting the USGS has apparently mapped all the wind turbines.

    There is one peculiar feature of the USGS Wind Turbine Map I can’t comprehend.

    Why former Confederate States are almost completely free of these industrial devices while the rest of the country is infested by them? Can anyone help me out on this puzzle?

  64. It seems David Cameron is turning against wind farms, at least the onshore variety. According to a report in today’s Telegraph, he wants to go into next year’s general election with a pledge to virtually stop further onshore wind farms. It even mentioned the possibility of some wind farms being dismantled.
    Well, that’s a step in the right direction.

    Another extraordinary report in the Telegraph: apparently the House of Commons Climate committee wants the BBC’s climate coverage to be more balanced. That should bring a smile to any sceptic’s face. But wait a minute. They seem to think that the BBC is biased in *favour” of the sceptics, and that the BBC’s coverage should be more pro-global warming/AGW.
    Absolutely unbelievable and sickening in equal measure. Do these morons really think that the Guardian’s broadcasting arm is on the side of the sceptics? This really takes the biscuit!
    Chris

  65. john says:
    April 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Edit: Reduce should be ‘increase’.

    It will [reduce] the fuel you use substantially (efficiency), AND more importantly, beat the hell out of you car.

  66. Allow me to ‘blue pencil’ this:
    “Optimally spacing SIMULATED turbines allows them to capture more SIMULATED wind, produce more SIMULATED power and increase SIMULATED revenue for the SIMULATED farm.”

  67. Greg says:

    April 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

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

    Wind mills or wind turbines are not efficient as you have to build a back up that is able to handle the max load. So you pay twice for wind.

  68. @jake 1:35am.

    My uncle has a hybrid, which at 5 years old and less than 50k miles has had to have a new battery pack. A friend’s Lexus hybrid has had to have a new inverter and control system (at a weep making cost). My diesel family car is 12 years old, has done just shy of 180k miles without anything other than regular maintenance, and still does 55mpg on average. I will take a lot of convincing to switch to electric. But if I could get an electric for the school run that cost as much as an equivalent diesel with a 200k miles battery pack, I’d be more than happy to give it a shot.

    It may well happen. People who make predictions about the future based on current understanding and technology are always wrong :)

  69. Jake J,

    “There is definitely a market for shorter-range commuter cars.”

    I agree, but most of that market uses cheap used cars for that purpose. The largest segment of that market can’t afford to spend $20K+ on a short range commuter car as a second vehicle.

    Unless you can get the total vehicle price under $10K, which will probably require a battery price under $1K, maybe even under $500 that market isn’t large enough to make a significant dent in the consumption of oil as a transportation fuel.

    Until that do everything electric car is a reality, EVs will be a tiny niche segment too small to impact the aggregate transportation fuel mix.

  70. george e. smith,

    “And what to rare earths have to do with battery technology”

    There are a few exceptions, but most rechargeable batteries are made using rare earth elements, the most common being lithium.

  71. “””””…..MattS says:

    April 2, 2014 at 8:36 am

    george e. smith,

    “And what do rare earths have to do with battery technology”

    There are a few exceptions, but most rechargeable batteries are made using rare earth elements, the most common being lithium……”””””

    I don’t know of a single; even experimental, battery chemistry system, that uses rare earth elements.

    Lithium is NOT a rare earth element; it is the first and lightest of the Alkali Metals in group I of the periodic table.

    The rare earth elements are the transition series from Cerium, # 58 to Lutetium, # 71, and Lanthanum, # 57, is usually included for some reason I don’t understand.

    Lanthanum, is an important Optical glass element, with very nice optical properties, but no use in batteries.

    Rare earth elements are common components of modern phosphor materials, as used in lighting, and some display technologies.

    Cerium for example, as a dopant in a YAG crystal powder phosphor, is the most well known combination used for white LEDs (patented by Nichia). It has a strong but narrow blue absortion at 460 nm, and radiates a broad yellow centered spectrum, that combines with the residual blue to give white light..

    But no use in batteries.

  72. “””””…..Jake J says:

    April 2, 2014 at 12:30 am

    When you say conversion and storage, that to me implies that your 75% includes the house AC to DC conversion, the charging efficiency of the battery, and the battery to electric motor, and transmission losses.

    All of that except for transmission losses, which are 6-7%. I don’t include them because to include electricity transmission losses would require including the energy expenditure in moving gasoline from refineries to pumps. …..”””””

    Jake you misunderstood me ( or I wasn’t clear) By “transmission losses”, I did NOT mean the grid transmission from coal plant to house; I was referring to the “mechanical transmission” from auto electric motors, to the drive wheels.

    I agree with you, electrics aren’t burdened by the power line costs or losses, any more than gasoline/diesel, is by trucking costs.

    Also in fairness, the coal to line juice is no different from Arabian crude processing to diesel and gasoline.

    Yes regular autos also have transmission losses. I was trying to see how you get 75% efficiency from AC line juice, through AC-DC conversion, battery charger losses, battery charge-discharge chemical efficiency losses, battery internal series resistance losses on charge and discharge (source of battery heating), battery DC to three phase AC losses (either rotary inverter as in Tesla-S, or electronic DC-AC three phase), three phase AC motor copper (resistance losses, and iron magnetic hysteresis, and eddy current losses (source of electric motor heating), and then the mechanical transmission (including differential) friction losses to the wheels.

    If all of that is better than 59% efficiency, that would surprise me greatly.

  73. “””””…..Jake J says:

    April 2, 2014 at 12:26 am

    @Matt S, the market for electric cars is not going to be all-or-nothing, Very few things are. It started with hard-core geeks 20 years ago. Now it’s early adopters, the curious, and status-seekers, i.e., the Tesla Model S buyers.

    Stick a 60 kWh gas tank in the vehicle, and make it cheap enough, and the next segment will be second-car commuters. Not all of them, but a much bigger segment than today. (A 60 kWh battery will deliver a rock-sold 140-mile practical winter range in 90% of the United States, “practical” meaning how far it’ll go on 80% of the battery’s power.)…..”””””

    Tesla claims that the Model S with 80 KWh battery gets 300 mile driving range.. EPA, says only 280 miles.

    I say, only 90 miles. Once you drive, that model S out of your garage, the only place you can depend on finding an “elecgas” station, is back home in your garage. So you can drive (anywhere) for about 90 miles, and then do some loitering / shopping / sightseeing / whatever, and then drive the 90 miles back home to your elecgas station in YOUR garage.

    Try to convince a carrier fighter pilot that he has a thousand mile driving range !

  74. I agree, but most of that market uses cheap used cars for that purpose. The largest segment of that market can’t afford to spend $20K+ on a short range commuter car as a second vehicle.

    I’m not a car marketing specialist, but when there are 35% of households with two cars and 20% with three or more, I think some of ‘em are buying or leasing new second cars. In any case, the proposition is going to be tested soon, maybe within five years or less.

    Bigger batteries are coming; Nissan’s LEAF is reported to be on the brink of doubling battery size for a small ($4,000) price increase. It’s not the holy grail, but if and when it happens you’ll see a whole lot more of them around. Depending on who you believe, this could be announced this year for their 2015 car.

    A 48 kWh LEAF would get, on 80% of the battery, a solid 110-115 miles in cold weather; 135 miles on average year-’round; 150 miles in warm weather without A/C; and 140 miles with the A/C. I happen to think 60 kWh is the tipping point, but 48 kWh would be a very big deal, especially if that car would lease for $250 or $300 a month.

    Won’t be for everyone, but they’ll sell 500,000 to 1 million a year, and their competitors will be falling all over themselves to match it.

  75. “””””…..Jake J says:

    April 2, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Two articles that shed a little light on the rare earth element issue. It might be more in the motors than the batteries, but I’m not entirely sure of that

    http://www.plugincars.com/rare-earth-elements-arent-actually-necessary-evs-or-hybrids-107194.html

    http://www.slashgear.com/ford-reduces-the-use-of-rare-earth-metals-in-lithium-ion-batteries-for-hybrids-13247415/……””””””

    Jake, I’m pretty much in agreement with the first article ; Neodymium, is a well known component of high strength permanent magnets. I’m all for using it in permanent magnet applications, including (very) small electric motors, but it is absurd to use it for power motors. Tesla uses a three phase AC induction motor, with I believe, variable frequency drive. For such motors, it can be shown, that the highest efficiency, for a given size, is reached, when the copper losses (electrical resistance), and the iron losses (hysteresis, and eddy currents), are equal, so 50% of the heat is produced in the coils, and 50% in the iron. You can put in more iron to reduce the flux density, and thus iron losses, but now you have less winding space for the coils, so you have to use a smaller wire gauge, and the copper resistance losses go up, more than the iron losses come down; and of course verse vicea.

    Whatever one thinks of the Tesla, from a business point of view, (I think it sucks for the taxpayers), the car is very well engineered; it impresses me, although I would have used two motors, and no differential.

  76. george e. smith, I am utterly not the Tesla salesman. It’s a $100K car for Silicon Valley snobs and wannabes. Tesla is not a car company. They’re a one-product wonder, selling an iPod on wheels. If electrics have a future, they’ll be made by real car companies, not Tesla.

    That much said, the 80% range of Tesla’s 84 kWh Model S is about 210 miles. More like 240 miles in warmish weather w/no climate control, and 160 to 180 miles in winter, depending on how harsh. The 90-mile range estimate is as much b.s. as is Tesla’s 300-mile top range claim.

    90% of electric recharging is done at home. I think it’ll be close to that for a long time, and maybe forever. That goes for Tesla’s “superchargers” as well. They’re a promotional gimmick, not a practical solution. Even at their higher power levels, a Model S relying on those chargers will spend one-sixth of a road trip sitting at a charger, which is three to four times as long as a gas car.

    You asked about efficiency from plug to wheels. On that one, I have to admit that I relied on an electric engineer acquaintance, along with anecdotal semi-confirmation by way of Nissan’s “car wings” website, which purports to tell people how much juice their LEAF uses.

    The EE told me the loss between the plug and the wheels is 22%, most of it occurring at the AC to DC conversion point in the car’s inverter, which recharges the battery. There are also losses in the wiring connections between the inverter and the battery, and the battery and the motor. The motors themselves are quite efficient, or so I was told.

    Nissan’s “car wings” site works by transmitting a LEAF’s data to a website. Apparently, it measures power AFTER the inverter stage, and gives vastly inflated fuel economy numbers as a result. Therefore, when looking at this issue, I insist on metering the electricity at the outlet with an appliance meter and using the old-school odometer division arithmetic. This is directly comparable to gas pump-odometer arithmetic. It is also the method that the EPA uses.

    If you compare like to like on cars, and use Dept. of Energy data to translate gasoline energy content into kWh, you will see that electric cars get 3 to 3-1/2 times the fuel economy. This matches other material out there that talks about the degree to which internal combustion engines waste >75% of their energy by sending heat into the air.

    Some of the numbers I’ve given here are imprecise. For instance, electric vehicle efficiency might be better than 75%. Maybe a little worse. Gas car efficiency is probably worse than 25%. But the relative efficiencies are quite reliable, because you can easily compare a Nissan Versa to a Nissan LEAF, using EPA numbers that rely on the Dept. of Energy’s electricity/gas conversion equation.

    Also, with respect to windmills or wind turbines or the antichrist with rotors of whatever someone wants to call them, I will maintain that if they are 59% efficient at converting wind energy to electrons that’s damned good and frankly a lot higher than I’d have thought. In the end, though, I’d look at costs, which for terrestrial wind, um, appliances, are surprisingly attractive. I’d also be interested in the lifecycle energy budget (energy in, energy out), but I don’t have the numbers.

    Finally, I return to my original point, which is that non-fossil fuel power sources, and electric vehicles, and other innovations that don’t depend on fossil fuels or that use their output more efficiently, are not, not, NOT contradictory with AGW skepticism. To the extent that some eco-faker thinks they can rip out all the fossil-powered electricity generators and replace them with solar and/or wind, then that fool needs to be laughed or argued into submission, depending on who they are.

    But that does NOT somehow kill the case for the efficient use of resources, or for engineering, modeling, science, inquiry, and re-engineering. Those things are the building blocks of modern society, which I presume the people around here would like to preserve and extend.

  77. As for as electric car subsidies go, I think too much has been made of them by their opponents.

  78. Why former Confederate States are almost completely free of these industrial devices while the rest of the country is infested by them? Can anyone help me out on this puzzle?

    First off, Texas was a member of the confederacy. Check your map again. As for the rest, that’s a good question. This is a complete guess and could easily be wrong, but I wonder if it might be that the deep South doesn’t get all that much wind. What surprises me is that North Dakota isn’t entirely covered with them.

  79. Won’t be for everyone, but they’ll sell 500,000 to 1 million a year, and their competitors will be falling all over themselves to match it.

    I wanted to retract the numbers there. I don’t know how enough about the car market to guess how many they’d sell if the have a $33K LEAF before the rebate with a 48 kWh battery. But I do think it would be a very, very, very big deal.

  80. Berényi Péter says:
    April 2, 2014 at 2:55 am

    There is one peculiar feature of the USGS Wind Turbine Map I can’t comprehend.

    Why former Confederate States are almost completely free of these industrial devices while the rest of the country is infested by them? Can anyone help me out on this puzzle?

    The Bermuda “high” is a persistent, months-long high pressure system that – obviously – stably sits right over Bermuda for many seasons. It is wide enough to influence FL, SC, southern and eastern GA directly, and to a slightly lesser extent, NC, northwest GA, AL, and to moderate the winds even over Mississippi and eastern Arkansas. So, you have many months of the year with very little stable winds and no consistent-direction strong winds at all. What mountains exist are not in the right position and direction to funnel winds through gaps or passes.

    West Arkansas, northwest Arkansas will behave much more like northeast TX and east OK …

    That leaves northwest TX and coastal TX as the only places in the confederacy where the enviro’s want to keep killing more whooping cranes and migratory birds.

  81. One other thing I’d say is this: The use of petroleum and natural gas, coal, and uranium for energy is appropriately considered a necessary evil. If we could replace these sources with something(s) else that has fewer externalities, we ought to do it, depending of course on what the new externalities are.

    We’re not there yet. It’s obvious that we’re not, regardless of what the eco-fakers say. However, we’re starting to nibble around the edges, and maybe more than just nibble in some places. I think it’s a big, big mistake to equate AGW skepticism, which I increasingly share, with opposition to the development of renewables.

    Given that renewables are, well, pretty new, there’ll be some level of subsidy involved. In the U.S. the subsidization of emerging infrastructure, whether it was transcontinental railroads, air travel, semiconductors, ubiquitous telecommunications networks, mechanized agriculture, mass higher education, or the interstate highways, is very firmly within our national tradition.

    From what I can see, the blind alleys (and stupid mistakes, i.e., Solyndra — what were they thinking?!) notwithstanding, there isn’t a lot of difference between renewables subsidies thus far and the others. Frankly, thus far, my own biggest objection is the ongoing tendency to grant zero value to scenic landscapes when it comes to siting windmills. Other than that, I can live with the rest. Now if I were in Germany I think I’d be a little pissed at putting solar panels in the north Fifties, but I’m not in Germany.

  82. That leaves northwest TX and coastal TX as the only places in the confederacy where the enviro’s want to keep killing more whooping cranes and migratory birds.

    I have scenic objections to windmills, but birds? Please, be serious. There are a zillion (okay, 10,000?) of these ugly bastards just east of the scenic boundary along the Columbia River, home to eagles, ospreys, herons, and so on, and it really hasn’t been an issue. But they’ve ruined some vistas, and I’m one of those fools who takes “America the Beautiful” more seriously than the big city eco-fakers and their “progressive poser” windmill corporate buddies.

    But the birds? Sorry, pardon the pun, but that one doesn’t fly.

  83. george e. smith, I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I’m not an engineer, but just someone who was good at arithmetic and who scored high on those “general reasoning” tests. But you seem to have a engineering background of some kind, so a question: Are there meaningful opportunities to reduce losses in electric battery propulsion systems?

    Are inverters as efficient as they can get?

    Can wiring be better shielded, or use different gauges, or otherwise be re-engineered?

    Etc.

  84. “”””””……Jake J says:

    April 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm …..”””””

    Jake, from a chemistry point of view, there is not a great deal of moving room in battery technology.

    Different chemical elements (or compounds) exhibit different “electro-chemical potentials” when compared against some standard electrode; which by convention is a hydrogen electrode; if you can imagine that.
    For example, a metal like zinc, often used in primary batteries, has a potential (against hydrogen) 0f -0.76 Volts, while copper has a potential of +0.35 Volts.

    A copper zinc battery thus generates about 1.11 Volts (open circuit), in an ancient battery called a Lechlanche cell. So the battery Voltages available, depend almost totally on the elements in their electrodes.

    Now zinc is known to dissolve rather rapidly in sulphuric acid, and that happens as it generates an electric current. The more chemically reactive an element is, the higher the Voltage it generates.

    Lithium, is the start of the Alkali metal series, which is Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, and Cesium. The heaviest member, Francium, is not found in nature.

    All of those react violently on contact with water, and or oxygen, generating enough heat to melt the metal, and eventually for it to catch fire. A tiny sliver of potassium, tossed in water, is a sight to behold. So the better they are at making high energy batteries, the more obnoxious an dangerous they are, besides other environmental hazards.

    So Lithium, is already one of the most obnoxious, reactive chemicals there are. At he other end of obnoxious, in the reverse direction, you have the elements, Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine,
    Iodine, and fluorine is king of obnoxia for that set.

    So the available practical chemical systems, are fairly well known, with not much haggle room.

    Where improvements may lie, is in the manufacturing and construction methods and processes.

    Small, efficient, and energy dense batteries seek out huge surface areas, in spongy forms of material, so they are fractal surfaces, with acres of surface all folded up into tiny spaces, and all electrically connected together by low resistance conducting paths.

    Battery engineers, have shown great ingenuity, in constantly increasing the capacity, of common cell types, by novel construction methods.

    But advances in that area come slowly and laboriously. And of course, they also want to reduce the cost of fabricating such ingenious structures. So progress is slow.

    Don’t expect to hear of a new Mark Zuckerberg of batterydom, any time soon.

    I’m actually a physicist mathematician, with a long engineering career in electronics, and optics.

    I’ve got a few hat feathers, I’m sorta proud of.

    [A few hat feathers are nothing to sneeze at .... 8<) Mod]

  85. Huh the electric car lost to the internal combustion engine, before that it was barely competing with the steam car and horse.
    Electric cars are cheap and common in North America, we call them golf carts. However traffic regulations usually prevent their use in cities. Where they would do the most good.
    A Quebec company was converting Renault Daphines to electric, Transport Canada finished their dreams off, what is not permitted is forbidden.
    Who ever builds a battery competitive with a tank of gasoline will be a billionaire. But as a higher capacity battery is a bomb, the safety regulators will ensure the inventor will die penniless and bemused.

  86. Jake J,

    “I’m not a car marketing specialist, but when there are 35% of households with two cars and 20% with three or more, I think some of ‘em are buying or leasing new second cars. ”

    The vast majority of those two care households are couples where both work. Both fully use their own cars. The three car households are also two income households, but add in a teen driver. Not many of these households would be looking for what an electric car can provide, at least not without the electric being significantly less expensive up front than a gas car.

    If that’s the market being targeted, the EV needs to be < $15K

  87. george e. smith, interesting stuff. What I don’t know about batteries fills books. What about this? Put aside the specific numbers, and figure they’re engaging in grantsmanship. What about the concept?

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/153614-new-lithium-ion-battery-design-thats-2000-times-more-powerful-recharges-1000-times-faster

    Got any opinion about M.I.T.’s liquid metal battery? I for one am astonished that someone would fine $500/kWh attractive. Even now, lithium-ion car batteries are cheaper than that. And please ignore the hype in the article about Tesla and about pumped storage. That stuff drives me a little nuts, I being very, very far from being a member of the Cult of Elon.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-06/mit-s-liquid-metal-stores-solar-power-until-after-sundown.html

  88. The vast majority of those two care households are couples where both work. Both fully use their own cars. The three car households are also two income households, but add in a teen driver. Not many of these households would be looking for what an electric car can provide, at least not without the electric being significantly less expensive up front than a gas car.

    If that’s the market being targeted, the EV needs to be < $15K

    You’re a lot more doubtful about this particular market than I am. We’re going to get an opportunity to find out pretty soon. Even at today’s numbers, a Nissan LEAF’s $200/month lease sets ownership cost about $15/month higher than for a gas Versa. That’s awfully close to parity. Double the LEAF’s range and keep that lease nut within reason, and I think we’ll see a big sales expansion.

  89. Electric cars are cheap and common in North America, we call them golf carts. However traffic regulations usually prevent their use in cities.

    Hmm, so 125,000 pretty expensive doorstops have been sold since 2010. (By the way, I only counted the pure battery EVs in those lists even though I’d probably include the Chevy Volt given what I’ve heard about how their owners actually use them.)

  90. Matt, the average commute is 25 to 30 miles a day. The average car is driven 13,000 miles a year, or 35 miles a day. If, as you plausibly argue, a multi-car household fully uses each vehicle, I’d still suggest that only one of those cars usually gets driven out of town.

    True, there are plenty of exceptions. That’s what makes cars so great. They are tools of freedom, so the averages only go so far. So no one can make a blanket statement about every car. There isn’t one car market but multiple car markets.

    I don’t think today’s mid-priced EVs, i.e. the LEAF, have enough range for the commuter car markets. The average “80%” range is 65-70 miles, but you have to subtract 15 miles for winter. Given the standard deviations involved, it’s just not enough.

    But if you double that, or even better, double-and-a-half it, and wind up with a minimum dependable “80% range” of 95 miles at double and 120 miles at double-and-a-half, and I think there’s a substantial market. Not every American is scraping along on a shoestring budget. True, the middle- and upper-middle classes ain’t what they were in the 1970s and ’80s, but they are far from vanished.

  91. Janice Moore says:

    And some physics to explain why windmills are eternally inefficient:

    “Betz’ law (Year 1919) says that one can only convert not more
    than 16/27 (or 59%) of the kinetic energy in the wind to
    mechanical energy using a wind turbine.”

    No form of energy conversion is every going to be totally efficient.
    A more important issue with wind power is that it varies effectivly at random. In an electrical grid it’s a requirement for supply to meet demand. Without some huge batteries wind power just isn’t a sensible replacement for a steam turbine power station. The only kind of such “batteries” which are currently available are pumped hydro stations. In which case wind driven water pumps might be a better oftion than wind driven electrical generators.

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