Wind power

I was in a conversation today at lunch with a fellow who told me that “wind power is better than anything we’ve ever done for generating electricity”. That made me wonder, how reliable (beyond the constancy of wind issues) is it?

Whenever I drive through Techachapi or Altamont passes here in California I note that there always seems to be a fair number of these three blade windmills that are out of commission. Perhaps failure is more common than one would expect. I found a couple of examples:

And this one also, though I don’t know what the ending for it was like the one above…

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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September 25, 2008 5:38 pm

When we were in the Gaspe Peninsula Canada this last June we noted miles of giant wind generators poking above the trees and not one of them was turning. They all stood still and mute, not turning as there was no wind. The next day we spotted one turning, but those surround the turning wind generator stood mute. No idea why one was turning and the other were still. There was slight breeze, but no real wind. Now sure what the wind profile is on the Gaspe is, but while we were there at the end of June, no juice or money was being generated.

Pamela Gray
September 25, 2008 5:40 pm

Kinda looks like breaking wind to me.

September 25, 2008 6:05 pm

I may have been caught in your spam filter for listing a lot of links. I’ll try without links just to test it, then I’ll try sending them in smaller doeses if that works.

September 25, 2008 6:06 pm

Wind mills can achieve an efficiency rating ~40% at their optimum. If the wind is less than optimum than so are they. The Betz coefficient limits overall efficiency at 59% of available wind energy. Add to the Betz limit the inefficiencies of the generator, bearings, etc and we get into that 40% area.
Anyway they require more maintenance than advertised, as you have noted , and they do not work at all when the wind don’t blow.

September 25, 2008 6:07 pm

Ok, here are the first, on what’s wrong with it…
…from my file I named, “WIND BLOWS” (but, LOL, I like Pamela Gray’s much better!)

September 25, 2008 6:13 pm

That’s the thing with wind, it’s not baseline (realiable, always available) power so you have to build generating capacity of the same amount as the installed wind capacity unless you live in certain places where there’s basically always wind.
Gee, so I have to spend x$ to built Y MW of Wind capacity and I STILL have to spend another Z$ to have coal fired thermal plants or fission plants to back them up. THAT sounds like SUPER idea, a perfect use of funds.

September 25, 2008 6:21 pm

Wind farms screw up radar.
This is just one of many studies. This one happens to have been requested by Homeland Security.
“…Wind farms interfere with the radar tracking of airplanes and weather…”
There are many others that deal separately with Air Traffic Control radar, military radar, and doppler weather radar.
The proliferation of wind farms will continue.
If we end up with as many as, say, Boone Pickens wants, there WILL be problems.
Severe storms will be lost in the “clutter” produced by wind farms …the plane you’re flying on my be “lost” by ATC.

September 25, 2008 6:22 pm

Those deal with all the problems in general, and these next deal with particulars, like how it kills birds by impact, and bats by a pressure gradient (makes their lungs explode, allegedly).

September 25, 2008 6:29 pm

It all depends on how one defines “better”. The simple fact is that for rich people, perhaps. Perhaps they have a guilty feeling which needs to be assuaged. Energy from these wind turbines is clearly far more expensive than is energy derived from burning coal. Far more expensive. So, for that matter, is solar energy. One thing you will never hear from those advocating energy from either wind or solar is any real complete calculation of real and actual cost.
In the 17th Century, the Phlogiston theory was widely accepted in an effort to explain phenomena observed in the combustion process. It became widely accepted. Then, Lavoisier demonstrated, by experiment that the Phlogiston theory was wrong. So did those who had accepted and promoted the Phlogiston theory accept the evidence and accept that the Phlogiston theory was wrong? Of course not. They clung tooth and toenail to their demonstrably wrong theory. Their reputations were at stake, as could have been their careers, and certainly their egos.
It has become obvious that James Hansen’s theory of the contribution of human produced CO2 to global temperatures is completely wrong. However, many of those calling themselves “scientists” bought into it whole hog. Now, those “scientists” simply won’t accept that they were wrong. Their reputations would suffer, perhaps their careers would suffer, and certainly, their egos would suffer. Lately, Hansen has been “adjusting” temperature records of the 1930s in an effort to salvage his reputation, his career, and his ego. This is no more than falsifying data.
Coal is clearly the least expensive method of generating the electricity that we need. And it doesn’t have in the least to be “clean” coal. CO2 is not dirt, nor is it a pollutant.
Suppose you just bought a new house, and you knew that it would need a roof replacement some 25 years hence. Then suppose that some slick salesman came along, and told you that you had better replace that roof right now, even though you knew that the roof would be satisfactory for about 25 or so years. Would you be fool enough to listen to that slick salesman? That is the sort of slick sales trick that slick salesmen are trying on you right now. We are not about to run out of oil anytime soon. We have enough known coal to furnish present electrical needs for more than 300 years. We have enough natural gas deposits off both coasts to meet our heating needs for at least 50 years. New technology being used right now in North Dakota can be used to develop more shallow oil fields, which were never counted as feasible reserves of oil before.
We wouldn’t rush right out, at great cost, to replace that roof which would not need to be replaced until some 25 years hence. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be panicked into replacing that which works quite nicely and is affordable and will continue to be so for many years either, for something else which is just plain not affordable.

spangled drongo
September 25, 2008 6:29 pm

If wind was ever to be a genuine alternate energy source we would still have wind powered commercial shipping.
The ocean is one place wind will work if it is ever going to.
The wind-ships of a century ago reached a highly refined state of development but could not cut it.
Wind and solar seem destined to be only part time assistants.

September 25, 2008 6:35 pm

In the photo, the “STD” on the license plate indicates the town of Stade in northern Germany, just west of Hamburg

September 25, 2008 6:37 pm

I have often wondered at the total energy costs needed to establish a wind power complex. These energy costs would need to be calculated right from mining the ores to the final operating complex of wind towers.
The energy output of a wind tower complex is highly variable, particularly in continental areas where high pressure systems can mean close to windless conditions for days or even weeks on end.
I suspect that the energy pay back period, if ever, is a great deal longer than claimed by many wind power promoters.
Mention of items like the need to be located close to previously installed high voltage transmission lines [ Australia ] to make wind tower projects financially viable are studiously avoided when the overall energy pay back periods are quoted.
Wind power installation energy costs never include their share of energy needed to install the already established transmission lines as the lines already exist so it is assumed that no power line energy installation costs need be slated home to the wind power complex. Ditto roads, transport and numerous other items.
Wind power is neither a fully distributed energy generating system nor a highly efficient central power generating system but some sort of mongrel animal that is not very reliable nor particularly energy efficient over the whole energy budget and is barely financially viable without heavy tax payer subsidies.
Wind farms are also very socially disruptive for rural areas with those bloody great towers sprouting up in rural areas but with most of the power used in the cities. The true hypocrisy is that you will never see any towers within city boundaries. The rural citizens have to wear the lot so that the green elites in the cities can have some nice seemingly “green” power. Much of the ballyhooed efficient “green” wind power is an illusion and like the current financial situation relies on a sleight of hand with the figures to promote itself rather than as a genuine real product.
Even the Danes with the highest wind power generation percentage in the world admit that they have to rely on the German central power generators for base loads and to cover the large energy deficiencies when calmer North Sea conditions prevail.

September 25, 2008 6:38 pm

For the past five years I have driven over the Altamont Pass in Northern California, between San Jose and Sacramento, at least 4 – 5X a month, and sometimes much more often.
I can state for a fact that over that entire 5-year period, no more than a half-dozen times did I see even 50% – 60% of those windmills turning. My wife was usually with me, and we would always comment on how few were ever operating.
Usually, it was the same situation as described in RussS‘s post #1: the great majority of the Altamont windmills appear to be inoperative — and that pass is very windy.
It is exasperating seeing the view of those beautiful hills defaced by hundreds of non-turning windmills, planted in their giant concrete abutments like some technological Easter Island alternative-energy idols.
The only rationale I can think of is the massive tax credits involved. A profitable company can build a windmill, and take a tax credit [not a deduction, but a much more valuable credit] from the windmill tax shelter — and collect plenty of ‘carbon credits’ along the way.

September 25, 2008 6:44 pm

We mustn’t forget to say…

September 25, 2008 6:45 pm

Another big draw back is juggling the the grid loads, with can cause problems like
blowing up transformers and switching stations. It can cause the whole grid to fail,
they are running into this problem in Germany.
Reply by John Goetz: In all seriousness, software ought to be able to deal with that.

September 25, 2008 6:57 pm

yonason (18:07:46) :

Ok, here are the first, on what’s wrong with it

Oh good, I stumbled across that page one day as one of the first pages I read on the problems of big towers. I tried finding it a couple weeks ago and failed, but found the Mars Hill project. This first hand account is very interesting:
Various links for Maine and elsewhere:

September 25, 2008 6:59 pm

From my first link, above, I find that…
“Germany (size of Montana ) is the world’s largest user of wind technology. Over the last 20 years, Germany has erected 18,000 wind turbines that have only been able to generate 6% of the country’s total electricity supply.”
Germany has a population of about 82 million people, so a quick estimate yields 300,000 wind turbines for 100% power (all other things being equal), or one turbine for every 275 citizens.
You know, that might not be such a bad idea, because most adults could then work for the utility companies in manufacturing or maintainance or billing or bird&bat carcass removal, etc., and that could put a big dent in unemployment (currently at about 9 percent, there).
Still, that’s a lot of wind towers. Hmmm, lets see, Germany is about 137,000 square miles, so thats about 2 towers per square mile. Hang gliding enthusiasts and balloonists might want to start looking for a new hobby.

September 25, 2008 7:03 pm

I drove through Altamont Pass the first week of this month. I counted exactly two windmills turning. The dozens of others were still and it seemed like they were all pointed in different directions. Texas recently experienced an energy emergency when they had a series of calm days. They had come to rely on that wind power and when the wind didn’t blow they had to scramble to buy power elsewhere.
How many windmills does it take to operate an electric steel mill? Most steel mills in developed countries these days are electric blast furnaces. Last time I looked, an electric furnace took about 50,000 Megawatt/Hours of power per year. And that is for just one. People have no idea of scale when it comes to knowing how much power is consumed and how little a windmill generates. All the windmills in the country wouldn’t provide the power required to pump fresh and waste water for an average sized city.

September 25, 2008 7:07 pm

” Reply by John Goetz: In all seriousness, software ought to be able to deal with that. ”
At this site
There are two programs – a viewer and a screensaver – which let you monitor the grid… LIVE
The only server connects to the grid at Pullman, WA (the software was developed at Washington State University).
If anyone knows of similar live grid monitoring tools for other parts of the country, I’d love to hear about it.

September 25, 2008 7:17 pm Read the link it is a problem

September 25, 2008 7:17 pm

I don’t know if this explains it, but they have to shut some of those towers down at certain times because they’ve found that they are more likely to kill birds that the other towers.
Another reason seems to be that the power going into the grid can’t exceed it’s capacity, so perhaps they only run the ones they need to supplement the power stations?
Probably other reasons, too.

Jeff Alberts
September 25, 2008 7:18 pm

Wind farms screw up radar.

They also screw up the views of rich people who pretend to be concerned about the environment, but not at the expense of their views *cough* RFK Jr *cough* hypocrite *cough*
Seriously through, I’ve driven past the Tehachapi farm a couple times in the last 5 years, both times in Winter, and I’d say at a rough guess that only 10% of the turbines were turning at either time. Both of these times were mid-day, during presumably peak load times.
Absolutely beautiful area to drive through, especially a leisurely drive with an RV.

Bobby Lane
September 25, 2008 7:18 pm

The Brits have plenty of experience with this, Anthony. One of the benefits of reading up on Europe is that the “green fantasy” as I like to call it is more obvious there than here. Yet, like Cap-and-Trade, what starts there will eventually end up here. Birds of a feather n’all. Anyway, here’s some links on their experience with it. There are quite a lof of them I could list, but I think about a half dozen will do. Plus, the last one has take on the “Green Madness” here in the USA. Enjoy!

Henry Galt
September 25, 2008 7:20 pm

There are building regulations to be adhered to when erecting skyhooks.
The amount of concrete mandated to anchor each skyhook creates quite a large carbon footprint.
The amount of funding and tax breaks is equally inappropriate.

September 25, 2008 7:21 pm

I am growing excited about geothermal steam electricity generation. I saw where 99% of the earth is over 1500 degrees C. Let’s say that is way off. Let’s say 80% and 1000 degrees C.
In the west, there are hundreds of square miles were current drilling technology would reach rocks that could generate a limitless supply of steam. Many of these areas are sparsely populated and don’t make a good economic location for a steam plant. They are doing this in some locations but on a very large scale.
Imagine making strides in drilling to reach this 350 degree rock in the east, near population centers. Imagine building a neighborhood in PA where on a 5 acre plot in the back you build a steam generator to power the 500 homes of the neighborhood. This would include a retention pond to provide a cooling source. Once you pump the water down, it comes back super heated then flashes to steam when the pressure is off, you generate the electricity. You send that electricity to the homes via your underground lines. The steam changes back to water and you send that water out in the winter in pipes along side the electric lines for domestic water heating, radiant heating of homes and even heating of sidewalks and driveways. (no more shoveling)
During weekdays and nights, you keep your plant running and sell the power back to the utility to offset costs.
Needs no sun, wind or back up.
Bob Lackey

Mike Bryant
September 25, 2008 7:22 pm

Uhhh, sorry boss I can’t come to work today my rechargeable toothbrush didn’t recharge… no wind…

Bobby Lane
September 25, 2008 7:23 pm

I put some relevant links up in my previous post. Can someone pleeease dig them out? I forgot to “cite” them. Or I can repost later if that is not possible. For now I’ll include a few other links. The Brits have a lot of experience already with wind power on a national scale.

September 25, 2008 7:24 pm

RE: Reply by John Goetz: In all seriousness, software ought to be able to deal with that.
While software can help manage the grid there are physical limits to trying to match load to demand especially when the load from wind farms can drop very quickly. This will cause power surges in trying to meet demand leading to the aforementioned problems. The only way around it is to “over-engineer” the grid which only makes wind power that much more expensive than traditional alternatives such as fossil fuels or nuclear.
Here in Ontario the feed-in tariff paid to producers of wind driven electricity is twice the going rate and for now wind is getting a free ride in terms of backup capacity costs since for now the grid, through its interconnection with other providers in Quebec and the U.S. can handle the load fluctuations. However this will no longer be the case once more wind farms are brought on stream and coal fired plants are decommissioned driven by misguided policy based decisions – not economic or engineering based ones!
Reply by John Goetz: OK, so we give up on wind?

Jeff Alberts
September 25, 2008 7:24 pm

Forgot to mention, my wife and I drove from Virginia to Prince Edward Island, Canada in 2001. Lovely little place to visit, but the roads are terrible!
Anyway, one one tip of the island there were several huge wind turbines, one or two three-bladed as I recall, and a couple helical types. None of them were spinning even though the wind off the Atlantic was quite plentiful.
I haven’t found any pictures of the ones I saw, but apparently they have a “proper” wind farm there now:

Jim Stegman
September 25, 2008 7:33 pm

The power generated by a wind turbine is a function of the air velocity CUBED. So if it generates its rated power at 20 mph, it can only generate 1.6% of the rated power at 5 mph. At this wind speed it probably doesn’t turn at all.

September 25, 2008 7:37 pm

Now this has nothing to do with wind power, maybe a ‘software failure’ but back in
2003 I remember a big power outage in Ontario and New york state.

September 25, 2008 7:38 pm

Ric Werme (18:57:04) :
Thanks, I don’t have those links.
Have you seen Jennifer Marohasy’s blog? In this link
she quotes a paper by a Bob McDonald, where at the end he says…
Barrel shaped turbines currently be[ing?] developed may solve this problem completely.”
What does he mean “barrel shaped turbines?”
Also, to allegedly minimize noise there’s a new serrated design for the turbine blade I find amusing on the scarry side
It looks like they should call it the “no bird survives” blade, as seen on those cooking shows on TV.

September 25, 2008 7:42 pm

Reply by John Goetz: OK, so we give up on wind? YES!!!!!!!!!
It is only cost effective for small scale use.

September 25, 2008 7:49 pm

My wife and I drove thru southwestern Minnesota a couple of months ago. Quite a few windmills there.
There was a recent article I saw somewhere (maybe National Review?) that talked about why you can never get Wind above 20% of your grid –basically it just isn’t reliable enough on a minute by minute basis. Electricity is all about RIGHT NOW.

September 25, 2008 7:52 pm

Bobby Lane (19:18:57)

Bill Illis
September 25, 2008 7:57 pm

I always think of it as Wind goes across laterally – parallel to the surface while the gravity of all that steel is downward. The frictional forces of the blades and generators spinning laterally (versus gravity pulling downward) means that the energy loss and efficiency is very poor for wind power.
What kind of grease is required to keep all those tons of steel in the mechanics working properly?
A new design is needed where the frictional energy losses are minimized to near zero.

Francis Small
September 25, 2008 8:02 pm

spangled drongo (18:29:57) :
If wind was ever to be a genuine alternate energy source we would still have wind powered commercial shipping.
The ocean is one place wind will work if it is ever going to.
The wind-ships of a century ago reached a highly refined state of development but could not cut it.
Wind and solar seem destined to be only part time assistants.

Wind power really sucks if you have to cross the equator, as any fan of Patrick O’Brian would surely know…

September 25, 2008 8:06 pm

CoRev- “Wind mills can achieve an efficiency rating ~40% at their optimum.” True, but this is never achieved in any wind farm. Britain has experienced 22% on average, and wind farms in the US range from 9%(!) to 32%. Older windmill designs are much worse.
Typically wind generation needs a 90% backup with conventional generation. E.On in Britain just announced that they will need to build $1.4T of new conventional generation to back up the huge wind initiative being pushed there.
Off-shore wind farms have had terrible infant mortality (1 year to replacement), but newer designs appear to be much better.

September 25, 2008 8:07 pm

Has anyone figured out the effects the large windfarms have on climate?
I mean wind is an energy flux from high pressure to low pressure which creates weather patterns (and climate in the long term). Now if we start removing this energy in ever increasing amounts, won’t this start have a greater and greater effect on weather and hence climate?

September 25, 2008 8:15 pm

I’m sorry, but I don’t know exactly the content of all these links, but I collected them a few weeks ago (havn’t time to watch them all now).

Burning turbines:

A comment:
“i work as an electrician am 51 y.o. and can tell you that the generator is made of iron,steel,copper,aluminum,carbon,rosin,plastic,le ad,oil and or grease for the shaft bearings,and other materials,aluninum and or fiberglass and other materials for the for the prop,and take a lot of energy to manufacture and transport and produce very little eletricity in return,just a BIG SCAM !!!hydro or nucleur is the way to go !!!”
Propaganda (not according to research) about silent turbines:

Turbine noise (some with bad recording quality) :

A clip from the bird union about a greedy wind power owner and…

Hal C
September 25, 2008 8:19 pm

For Scottish accident data see:

September 25, 2008 8:25 pm
shows the instantaneous Texas grid load, but has to be refreshed manually. I notice they have added the wind power output to the chart.

George M
September 25, 2008 8:34 pm

In a previous wind power discussion on this blog, I asked about the turbines on Oahu which seem to be abandoned. One of the regulars on here sent me a link:
[jeez (19:45:12) :]
George M.
You’re talking about the Kahuku Wind Farm.
which says, essentially, that the turbines were never cost effective and were abandoned to the property owner in the early ’90s. Now, if they did not work out on the north shore of Oahu, where the wind always blows, then where are they going to be useful?
Nice photo of the German unit, BTW. There has been a lot of failure information in the power utility literature, where the greens hope no one sees it.

September 25, 2008 8:36 pm

The Grail is Electrical Storage, once we can store generated electricity in massive amounts then wind and solar become feasible.
This is part of the thought behind new battery technology, that the car becomes the storage medium. With swappable battery packs service stations could have racks of batteries all containing stored energy.
In addition we would need power stations that would store massive amounts of energy for the grid.
Storing it in another form of energy, like heat, is very wasteful and expensive.
So until the super capacitor gets built we cannot use wind or solar for base-load power, it is good supplemental power and micro-site generation but with an efficency of 18% of rated output I would not run my business on a field of these alone.
We could maybe look at Wind/Hydro combinations where we make a closed loop hydro facility with the power to cycle the water provided by wind it should be fairly stable in output if the feed storage was large enough, not much chance of running out of gravity….hmmmm

September 25, 2008 8:44 pm

dkjones (20:07:43) :
I have wondered about that, but you’re the first person I’ve ever see actually ask the question. I would think we should know that, because if “a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Beijing can affect the weather in Boston” then it would seem sensible to ask what effects removing thousands of megawatts from circulating air might have on, well, everything.

Steve in SC
September 25, 2008 8:44 pm

Bob L. The 1500 C figure may be right as that would be on the verge of liquefaction of ferrous metals. Sounds like you are describing a combined cycle cogeneration turbine. It would take a lot of water to do all that. Installation cost would be a real bear though. Other than that and the fact that you woudn’t get a lot of recoverable energy out of 350 degree rock unless it was really close to the surface, sounds totally free except for maintenance costs.
Speaking of wind power the only thing that will make it feasable is some sort of storage technology and / or cogeneration scheme. I sort of like the pump storage method. You don’t have to worry about any chemical batteries and you can tap it whenever you need it. Downside is it takes real estate and water.

Mike Bryant
September 25, 2008 8:47 pm

I thinh we give up on wind SUBSIDIES. We have to pay for all the mortages that people can’t afford first.

Bill Marsh
September 25, 2008 8:49 pm

Not sure about reliability, but certainly Wind power is not delivering anything near the rated capacity. As I understand it the British/Scottish experience is that windmills are generating less than 25% of rated capacity, meaning we’ll need a powerful lot more than people seem to think to deliver even a fraction of the power we want.

September 25, 2008 8:52 pm

Sorry I’m using band width for more wind alternative/wind power “common sense propaganda”.
In Green Tech Media, Neal Dikeman at revealing the truth:
“People think new energy [technology] is going to be disrupting the whole industry … It’s not. … People are lying to themselves if they think their technology is game-changing and it isn’t.”
He continue with facts which I think everyone should know of (but don’t) :
“Oil companies are making 70 percent margins and ethanol companies are making nothing,” he said. “If prices fall, ethanol gets shut out first. Wind also is more expensive to produce – five times more expensive than coal. Solar technology is 20 times more expensive than coal. And subsidies are 100 times higher than oil on a per-unit basis.”
Articles about research on health problems for ppl living nearby turbines:
About bad economy and huge subsidize, due to a British study:
A link to the study could be found here:
Wind power pricier, and emits more CO2 than thought:
Problems with on grid wind power:
About an Economist article on Danish wind power:

September 25, 2008 8:56 pm

I am a veteran of the wars to stop commercial wind power from spoiling the vistas here in the Catskill Mountains and I learned a few things along the way.
The comments about unreliability of electricity from industrial wind turbines is bang on target. 25% is generous. Furthermore, they don’t reduce CO2 from baseline power plants because the boilers are kept burning 24/7 regardless of demand. More often than not, when the turbines spin up, it is hydro or gas turbine generation that shuts down.
At least in the US, the primary driver for the use of industrial wind turbines is the tax breaks. Without these subsidies, commercial wind power is unprofitable.

Les Francis
September 25, 2008 9:17 pm

The misleading info about wind generated power is pervasive.
One wind turbine outputs how much? 3 -4 Megawatts at peak efficiency. One small fossil fueled station will output 600 – 1000 Mega watts continuously.
We are told that wind generated power will supply so many thousand homes with power — So Watt. The Real Power is required by industry. The power consumed by just one small factory is enough to power a hundred homes.
The telling factor is that a wind powered generator will not produce enough energy to be able to manufacture itself. Same goes for solar.
Sustainable energy does not exist.

Mike McMillan
September 25, 2008 9:22 pm

Whenever I flew over the Altamont windmill farm back in the last century, it always struck me how few were turning.
RE: Reply by John Goetz: In all seriousness, software ought to be able to deal with that.
Software can easily handle routing the juice to cover intermittent sources, but the problem is on the mechanical end. Switches connected to steady sources like steam turbines don’t operate much, but making and breaking to handle windmills wears ’em out. Part of the complexity of the windmills is the power switching circuitry, to keep them from drawing power and motoring when the wind dies.
… for now the grid, through its interconnection with other providers in Quebec and the U.S. can handle the load fluctuations. However this will no longer be the case once more wind farms are brought on stream and coal fired plants are decommissioned driven by misguided policy based decisions …
One good point about more turbine farms is that the wind is always blowing somewhere, so a loss here may be covered by a gain there, smoothing out the load spikes and giving you a reliable 20% efficiency over the whole grid.
Sure, 20% reliable doesn’t sound like much of a sales pitch, but you see it’s being paid for by the government, not you or me.

Pieter Folkens
September 25, 2008 9:32 pm

Re: yonason (19:38:08) : The design of the leading edge of those blades is based on the knobs on the leading edge of humpback whale flippers from the research of Frank Fish (yup, that’s his real name). As these whales lunge towards the surface, they bring their flippers up to “flash” the prey with the white underside of the flippers. Frank’s work found that the knobs substantially reduce drag. That’s where the company with the unusual blades got the name “whalepower.”
Re: Bill Illis (19:57:46) : There is an investment scheme making the rounds which purportedly addresses the issue of friction from the weight of a large wind turbine. The premise is to use magnetic levitation (mag-lev) to reduce friction and increase the power output. It sounded a bit scamy to me when the promoter said they intended to install a solar voltaic array to cover the power demand when the wind didn’t blow. After I pointed out the amount of real estate necessary to provide that much power and that such an array would make the wind turbine irrelevant, he said he was mistaken. They were instead to have large capacitors to store energy when the wind was blowing so the energy could be used to keep the turbine turning when the wind died down. I went down the path of a perpetual motion machine, then tired of spending time with a profoundly stupid individual.

September 25, 2008 9:33 pm

I wish I could set one of these things up and make some money.
Screw wind!

September 25, 2008 9:38 pm

“…you see it’s being paid for by the government, not you or me.” — Mike McMillan (21:22:41)
Uh, you’re joking, …right?
Next time you send a payment to the IRS, use this postage stamp.

September 25, 2008 9:42 pm

yonason (19:38:08) :
she quotes a paper by a Bob McDonald, where at the end he says…
“Barrel shaped turbines currently be[ing?] developed may solve this problem completely.”
What does he mean “barrel shaped turbines?”

Possibly one of these:

Also, to allegedly minimize noise there’s a new serrated design for the turbine blade I find amusing on the scary side
It looks like they should call it the “no bird survives” blade, as seen on those cooking shows on TV.

The Decapitater! The text says it also increases efficiency at low speed.

David Segesta
September 25, 2008 9:44 pm

Maybe we should let the Europeans develop these things. If they are able to make them work in a cost effective manner then we can copy them. If not, we’ll just learn from their mistakes and save the R&D costs.

September 25, 2008 9:50 pm

> Reply by John Goetz: OK, so we give up on wind?
Perhaps excess electricity could be used to electrolyze water, and (at least the hydrogen) be fed into a pipeline system. Hydrogen can be stored for the slow production periods and fuel cells or gas turbines running on hydrogen could be used to make the farm be essentially a baseload provider.
I think wind -> only electricity will prove too problematic.

September 25, 2008 10:13 pm

The continual load concept for turbines is nice on paper, but when you factor in transmission costs, infrastructure upgrades and geographic wind distribution the concept is found to be lacking.
At present, there is no justification for commercial wind turbines economically, environmentally or socially.

Jeff Alberts
September 25, 2008 10:21 pm

A new design is needed where the frictional energy losses are minimized to near zero.

I would think magnetic bearings, e.g. maglev, would be the best, but requires a lot of power…

Bobby Lane
September 25, 2008 10:24 pm

EUReferendum reports the same governmentally-induced corruption. The only way the wind turbines are kept spinning (minus the actual wind) is the massive public-paid subsidies which are gathered through substantially higher electricity bills. The EU, through a directive or two, is forcing the shut down of some coal plants – even if the coal plants come back, they must come back with carbon-capture and storage, which will only increase the price of electricity and decrease efficiency of generating it. The French, who have bought out the largest British electricity generator, are going to build more nuclear plants, which will help. But the time gap between when the old plants go offline (coal and nuclear) and the new stuff (natural gas or nuclear) come online could cause serious shortfalls there.
This is where, as I have said time and again, AGW “science” is used to make policies that are bad, corrupts business interests into buying into it because plenty of public money (taxes and increased prices) is there for the taking, and overall give the shaft to the little man. It is the exercise of a political agenda filled with corruption.
Even T. Boone Pickens, if you recall the commercials, is wild about wind power (and natural gas) because there is plenty of subsidies to be given out. He basically bribed the Texas legislature, and they re-wrote the law so that he could form a municipal area, which being a government can declare eminent domain. So now he can snatch the common man’s house and land, so he can make billions off of wind-power and natural gas (pipeline to be run under the wind turbine electrical lines), appearing ‘green’ and pro-American energy. Pffft! A puff of smoke. The only ‘green’ TBP knows is the color that comes on dollar bills.
Along with carbon capture-and-store, wind power is one of the most dangerous ideas in substantially raising prices for customer. And unlike other industries, you can’t stop buying because you don’t like the price. You can’t go elsewhere. And once you demolish your old reliable ‘dirty’ power sources for ‘green’ power sources, it is incredibly hard if not impossible (due to costs and laws) to get the old reliables back. It is as big an attack on the common man as there has ever been since I don’t know when.

Jeff Alberts
September 25, 2008 10:24 pm

I have wondered about that, but you’re the first person I’ve ever see actually ask the question. I would think we should know that, because if “a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Beijing can affect the weather in Boston” then it would seem sensible to ask what effects removing thousands of megawatts from circulating air might have on, well, everything.

Ah, the great Chaos Theory fallacy. The butterfly has zero effect outside it’s immediate vicinity, since the incredibly tiny amount of wind it creates is quickly swallowed up by any normal wind. I mean think about it. Just speaking causes more wind that a butterfly. And in the case of someone like the Goreacle, we’re talking major jet exhaust.

Don Shaw
September 25, 2008 10:24 pm

living in New Jersey I had the pleasure of traveling via the intercostal waterway last weekend and as we approached Atlantic City a friend on the boat pointed out to me that none of the windmills were turning. There was a moderate breeze, so I was surprised . My reaction was what a waste of taxpayers dollars and who is kidding who when the folks in Washington and our state capitals mandate that we survive on renewable fuels, solar, and wind power. To be fair, Later in the afternoon as we departed from Atlantic city the wind picked up so the windmills were turning.
My proposal would be that the politicians should have to live under the mandates they pass for 5 years before the public are exposed to their follies. I want to see them drive small cars, give up air travel, shut off the AC, freeze in the winter, ride on public transport, etc before they ask me to sacrifice and pay a premium for electricity, gasoline, and other fuels..
As a matter of concern to me, some of the NE states have banded together to initiate a cap and trade for carbon. See the URL below:
My home state (NJ) has passed legislation and was supposed to be part of the auction. Fortunately the current administration in NJ is so corrupt and incompetent that they did not get their act together in time to get into the cap and trade party. Unfortunately Pollicies like this along with high taxes are forcing business and people to exit NJ. The renewable energy mandate will put the nail in the coffin for NJ. Many residents are beginning to realize that while these green policies sound good, they are expensive and will send jobs and fortunes elsewhere. More exposure in the media is needed to inform the voters so we can throw the bums out.
I can’t understand why the politicians have such an illogical hate for carbon (for me) while they enjoy all the benefits themselves.

James Burnham
September 25, 2008 10:36 pm

In reply to: yonason (19:38:08)
What does he mean “barrel shaped turbines?”
See “” title =”Aerotecure” a Chicago startup company – very small, localized, urban wind powered turbines.

Bobby Lane
September 25, 2008 10:37 pm

“One good point about more turbine farms is that the wind is always blowing somewhere, so a loss here may be covered by a gain there, smoothing out the load spikes and giving you a reliable 20% efficiency over the whole grid.
Sure, 20% reliable doesn’t sound like much of a sales pitch, but you see it’s being paid for by the government, not you or me.”
What Evan said will do for part of that second part. But seriously, it costs 6 times more to generate (at the least), which will HAVE to be passed on to consumers in higher prices. Even if the government paid for all of it, that still means more tax money. The turbines wear out, they break, they can only operate at a certain span of wind velocities, they are expensive to build and operate, and they are a terrible eyesore. The ONLY way that they can be maintained is through massive subsidies and massive prices rises. That is the only way any energy company would or will EVER be interested in them. WIND POWER = NO POWER.

September 25, 2008 10:40 pm

Here’s another problem with wind turbines, when they DO work: Shadow flicker.
If your home is built near a wind turbine the pulsating shadow flicker on your home is enough to drive a person insane. Here’s a video of one victim:

Aussie John
September 25, 2008 10:45 pm

Whilst in the navy and operating with helicopters I know the pilots were paranoid about anything hitting the rotor blades as the smallest chip/dent/etc caused imbalance.
How do wind turbines fair when hit by birds, bats, kites, hang-gliders, etc.
I would think the time spent on blade maintenance and balancing would be high (thus costly) plus this equals downtime.

September 25, 2008 10:53 pm

“I am growing excited about geothermal steam electricity generation. I saw where 99% of the earth is over 1500 degrees C. Let’s say that is way off. Let’s say 80% and 1000 degrees C.”
I used to be excited about it but I learned some things that have lead me to believe that it isn’t a good idea on a massive global scale. That heat inside the earth takes a long time to accumulate. It is generated by atomic decay of elements having very long half-lives which means during any given time, there are relatively few atoms decaying. So the heat builds up very slowly. You can easily take out in a decade heat that took thousands or even millions of years to accumulate. In other words, it isn’t really renewable. And it could kill us.
We need that heat to generate volcanism in order to maintain the atmosphere. If every city on the planet were to have a large geothermal operation (anyplace can produce geothermal energy, you just have to dig deeper in some places than in others) we could easily dissipate the heat inside the earth into space. Basically geothermal is taking the heat from inside the earth, converting it to electricity which we do something with and turn back into heat which is dissipated into the atmosphere and then into space. We would basically greatly speed up the cooling of the Earth’s interior by building what amounts to a huge heat exchanger system.
The first problem would be local heat depletion where you pull the heat out faster than it can be conducted back and your energy production drops. Other problems include dissolved minerals and gasses causing the hot water to be highly corrosive. Plants don’t seem to last very long. On a small scale, it is fine but as a major global energy source, it probably sucks and could change what is going on inside the earth that we rely on to keep us and everything else alive.
We really don’t want the earth to cool off because about half the stuff that generated the heat in there has decayed already. Heat is now being produced at only half the rate it was 4 billion years ago. Once the planet cools to the point where where volcanism stops or is greatly slowed, Earth becomes like Mars. The lighter gasses and water vapor outgas into space and we have a bone dry planet with a thin CO2 atmosphere. We would die long before that happened, though, because once CO2 drops much lower than it is now, photosynthesis stops and the plants die. We are still currently at about a record low for CO2 in the atmosphere of Earth on a geological timescale. If it gets much lower, the plants will begin to die and then the animals will die for lack of food.
I have no problem with a few small geothermal plants but I do have serious problems with it on a massive scale along the lines of the current global energy production of coal or nuclear. That could basically kill the planet.

September 25, 2008 10:57 pm

Big picture time. What have the last 10 years of the complte lack of a common sense energy policy cost?? Mainly Democratic actions, in tandem with environmental activist have stopped virtually every effort to develop this nations natural resources.
Just think, about 200 million people are paying $75 to $100 more per month for gas then they did two or three years ago. That is about 15 billion each and every month!!!
Now add the increased cost of oil, natural gas, coal etc.
Now add the cost of alternative energy subsidies.
Add in exsisting and proposed carbon trade programs.
Add in energy caused inflation to virtually every product.
Now add the cost of AGW research that is primarily looking for new and creative ways to blame EVERYTHING on AGW, and never consider the benefits.
All together, I dont know, you tell me, 30 billion a month??
If we had a reasonable energy policy we would have low inflation, high employment, and be able to afford the development of clean fossile fuel energy, and fossil fuel alternatives, all at a reasonable and affordable pace.
Gee, then maybe we could afford to deal with this….
The entire Freddie Mack, Fannie Mae mortgage market collapse was primarily (as in the biggest factor) a result of democrats creating a housing bubble through a system of social welfare (housing for people that could not afford to purchase), and rewarding their constituents; Franklin Raines, Jim Johnson, Jamie Gorlick to name a few. In other words what we have here is , I get votes through social welfare and campaign contributions, my buddies get rich, and the tax payers foot the bill.
Before anyone gets upset plenty of republicans turned their backs on the problem for political expediancy, and plenty of bankers and mortgage borrowers took a very short term appoach also.

September 25, 2008 11:02 pm

There are designs for wind turbines with vertical shafts and no blades. Some look about like the agitator in washers. They eliminate most of the structural and sound problems of the conventional turbines.
But verticals never seem to get out of the engineering labs. So there are problems somewhere.
I have little doubt that engineers can handle the grid problems of intermittent wind generation. Costs will fall and reliability will rise. But wind that isn’t will produce no power.

September 25, 2008 11:02 pm

I’m interested to know why the dinner guest thought wind power was the best, did he elaborate.
I have a softspot myself for small scale hydroelectric power generation, hosue or village requirement sized. I’d invest in one of those, if only I had a river next to my house ..damn, always some downsides!

September 25, 2008 11:07 pm

iceFree (21:33:15)
Hyperion sounds like a scam to me, but . . .
. . . maybe not.

September 25, 2008 11:16 pm

Dee Norris (22:13:48) :
At present, there is no justification for commercial wind turbines economically, environmentally or socially.
Oh yes there is!! – One justification. – The guilt and feel good factor. (A western society disease)

Neil Jones
September 25, 2008 11:19 pm

Response to ROM (18:37:34)
The British Standards (BSi) is already working on this try
and this may be of general interest

September 25, 2008 11:28 pm

Wind is far too mechanical. Those turbines must have huge bearer problems etc.
Geothermal is interesting but still only in it’s infancy and there could be radiation and geological stability problems.
Solar thermal is a serious possibility.
They are claiming 24/7 output, i.e. base load power, and at a price competitive with coal. They intend to store the steam produced and operate continuously. They say there is 10 gigawatts proposed by 8 individual companies in the Nevada desert.
They’ve just opened their first factory to manufacture the reflective panels.

F Rasmin
September 25, 2008 11:40 pm

Mike McMillan (21:22:41) :
The government does not have a cent of its own, as it neither reaps nor does it sow; it only has your money and that of your fellow citizens ( and the Australian government has mine; every single cent!)).

September 26, 2008 12:03 am

As a Texas Panhandler, all I can say is that I hope those engineers are ready for Panhandle weather. 100 MPH straight line winds, and tornadoes are common. I have seen it go from a balmy 85 degrees to about 17 in 24 hours. Days where the wind blows 40+ mph all the time with much more powerful gusts. Ice Storms happen every year. Blizzards across the plains can leave drifts 10 feet high, only a couple of years ago we had a series of blizzards so bad that they were having to airlift hay to cattle trapped out on the range, still 10s of thousands starved or froze to death.
Admittedly, the Texas Panhandle is NOT a thing of beauty, but that has never stopped man from doing thier best to make it even uglier. To make matters worse, we are dead flat and have no trees so you can see these things from miles away. I cannot wait until they build T-Boones multi-billion dollar transmission line. Old timers will be telling their kids about when the Panhandle was only sort of ugly, it’ll be great!
Guess it really doesn’t matter though. Money evidently really does either grow on trees or come out of the clear blue sky somewhere between Washington D.C. and New York City, and they are willing to share that money with the Panhandle so long as we promise to make our area as ugly as possible. In the end, it’s a good thing because the people out here will need something to do after the Ogalalla goes dry from growing corn for ethanol and our land becomes the Great American Desert, again, but this time without the native grasses which have all been plowed under for crops. Heck, maybe with some luck we can experience another dustbowl.

September 26, 2008 12:09 am

Have you read the Calgary University reports on damage to bats (and, I suppose, other wildlife) caused by these wind-generating machines?
They found the majority of mortality was NOT caused by collision withe the blades, but rather by the rupturing of internal organs due to the lowered air pressure in the vicinity of these wind turbines…. Bats, as well as other critters, are serious ‘web of life’ members, from pollinating to seed spreading and pest control…
This does not even address the ‘wind shadow’ some farmers downwind of these ‘wind farms’ are reporting, which they say causes such a reduction in percipitation as to put them out of business….

September 26, 2008 12:18 am

Klockarman (22:40:20)
That’s pretty nasty.
James Burnham (22:36:12) & Ric Werme (18:57:04)
Thanks for info on alternative wind-power rotors. They seem like they are for smaller applications though; and if scaled up I don’t see why they wouldn’t also cause problems for birds and/or bats. I guess you just have to put them up and start collecting data?
Jeff Alberts (22:24:41)
“Ah, the great Chaos Theory fallacy.”
I was using that term rhetorically. What I was trying to convey was that if tiny perturbations can have long term measurable effects, why then aren’t we worrying about large scale damping of a major climate driver? My guess is that there’s no more to worry about than with whatever CO2 we are adding to the atmosphere, but I would fell more comfortable if I had some other handle on it than a gut feeling.
So, if anyone has an answer for dkjones (20:07:43), I would also be interrested.

September 26, 2008 12:32 am

Neil Jones (23:19:10)
“BSI will soon be able to provide a simple and reliable tool that helps make this possible.”
A “tool?” Why can’t they just do an exhaustive analyisis? It’s probably based on estimates, and they are going to be entered by people who are out of the loop of data collection, so if there were problems with the numbers, they would never know it. When it’s done I’d like to see the way the validated it.

September 26, 2008 12:47 am

Neil Jones (23:19:10) (from your second link)
“Plans to develop a joint windfarm and gas power station in the Irish Sea have been given the go-ahead by the UK government.”
That’s insane!”
It really gives me “confidence” in their carbon comparator “tool” they tout in that first link you provided – not.

September 26, 2008 1:14 am

I’ve discussed the functionally efficiency of wind turbines with actual turbine farm operators … the wind farms are often offline for easily a third of the time. Considering mean time between failures (MTBF) is considered high, the capitalization is on par with other power sources (cost per megawatt) I expect ultimately the financial return on current wind turbine tech to be a colossal flop.
Nearly each cost in an energy-driven economy reflects, ultimately, some kind of energy usage. With the exception of some luxury goods (diamonds) the measure of commodity energy-of-production is generally reflected in its cost: If the cost of something is high, the energy required to deliver that good or service is commensurate to its cost.
So as the maintenance of these mega-turbine wind farms increases, the functional use of upstream energy increases, the more CO2 is consumed to support this kind of “carbon neutral” infrastructure.
This isn’t to say that wind turbines are a total flop. The energy industry is looking at flodesign’s new jet cowling laminar bypass wind turbine design. We’ll have to wait & see whether their prototypes work.

Mr B
September 26, 2008 1:14 am

I work in the energy industry here in the UK. What a lot of people don’t realise about commercial wind power is that due to its inconsistent nature, existing power stations need to be on stand-by to cover times of high demand and/or times when there is no wind. What this means is that the coal-fired power stations are turning over, burning the coal but with out actually generating electricity. Therefore regardless of where the electricity is being generated, the same level of CO2 emissions are still being created.
Wind power is little more than a publicity stunt.

david atlan
September 26, 2008 1:20 am

Here is an interesting study on variability of the energy produced by wind over an entire country (Germany), the article is in German but there are many graphs:
The most interesting graph is called
“Taglich erzeugte Energie aus Wind”
(Daily energy generated by wind for ENTIRE GERMANY), you can see the extreme variability, there is no ‘averaging effet’, if you want to be able to have electricity when you need it, you basically need 100% backup

September 26, 2008 2:04 am

Wind power – certainly an interesting and controversial topic! In Europe, many countries have deployed wind energy extensively. Denmark for example has deployed wind turbines to 0.9KW per capita – a huge investment. Yet real world performance data from countries such as Denmark is not encouraging. Wind generated electricity has proven to be a virtually useless commodity, incapable of displacing fossil and nuclear fuel consumed in power stations due to problems arising from intermittency and inaccurate wind forecasting. Danish carbon emissions remain amongst the highest in Europe, and Denmark will remain dependent on coal fired generation for the foreseeable future. In my own country (UK) we have deployed over 2,000 MW wind energy, to the exclusion of reliable means of producing electricity. This has proven to be a costly exercise, with the government’s least-cost scenario (i.e. for meeting EU renewable energy directives) standing at 210 billion UK pounds. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the headline of one national newspaper comments this morning “Back to the dark ages – National Grid raises the spectre of blackouts this winter”.

The Engineer
September 26, 2008 3:02 am

Never quite understood the american obsession with dishing windmills – no they are not perfect, they are not going to produce ALL of the USAs energy needs, but they can be a very good (if expensive) supplement to the non-transport energy sector.
Here in Denmark, about 20% of the energy used in housing, offices, factorys etc. is supplied by windmills. They are subsidised, but cost roughly the same
as diesel (highly taxed) cost in Denmark after the recent oil price hike.
The major advantage is though (and this is where americans should really pay attention) “non-dependance on oil/gas/coal”.

Alan B
September 26, 2008 3:13 am

Concerning geothermal power:
It has already been pointed out that water can become corrosive as it dissolves minerals from the rocks. There is another problem that was raised some years back, that of deposition of minerals on surfcaces with fine clearances. As the water/steam cools in the pipework, turbine etc. some of the minerals get deposited so you are transfering minerals from the ground and laying them down on the inside of the plant. Not good for pressure frops and fine clearances.
Someone will know better than me but I believe there is a small geothermal plant in the US that uses a different heat ransfer medium to get the heat from the “hot rocks” and then pass the heat onto pure water, the heat exchange fluid then being recycled underground. I remember it was in the open air in a dry region. The heat exchange fluid was chosen so as not to dissolve minerals from below.
Iceland makes geothermal power work on a small scale (by US/UK standards).

September 26, 2008 3:34 am

@The Engineer:
Wind turbines will do nothing to reduce American reliance on oil for two reasons:
1) As with coal, is it not possible to stop burning oil when electricity from the turbines comes online, the boiler has to be kept hot.
2) Very little U.S. electricity comes from oil-fired power plants.
Furthermore, unlike Denmark, the U.S. has large reserves of coal which is more efficient than wind turbines for power generation.
Industrial Wind Turbines are simply a legal tax dodge here in the U.S. and have zero economic benefit for Americans

Patrick Henry
September 26, 2008 4:44 am

Coal burning power plants should cover their smokestacks with wind turbines and solar panels. That way they can emulate Al Gore’s yacht and simultaneously grind up his disciples engaging in “civil disobedience.”

Alan the Brit
September 26, 2008 4:44 am

Looking at these pictures from an engineering viewpoint, they probably should have multiplied instead of adding! Whoops! That good old formula SH1t² comes in handy every now & then.

September 26, 2008 4:57 am

Will: “…the headline of one national newspaper comments this morning “Back to the dark ages – National Grid raises the spectre of blackouts this winter”.
I remember the power cuts in the early 1970s – we had dinner by the light of candles and paraffin lamps, which was fun, but then I was still a kid. This time round, I don’t think it will be so exciting. These days, businesses require complex IT systems, which in turn require uninterrupted power to function properly, so I think it’s likely that blackouts would cause even more chaos now than they did then.
The government have had plenty of warnings about our aging power infrastructure over the years, but they have not exactly risen to the task.
If we all end up freezing in the dark, sometime in the winter of 2013, my thanks will go to our wonderful competent Labour government, our noble and principled Greenpeace activist friends of course, and a very special thanks to James Hansen .

Bob B
September 26, 2008 5:10 am

I remember driving to Brentwood from San Jose. I hit an area where as far as the eye could see there were windmill generators. Also as far as the eye could see none of them were spinning–what a total waste—someone somewhere should be fired or held accountable for such stupidity.

Håkan B
September 26, 2008 5:16 am

Here in Sweden we can look at the production online for a total of
787 turbines with an installed effect of 682 MW. They are right now
producing 28 MW, thats about 4%, impressing?
You can have a look at this link, I suppose Google can give a
reasonably good translation, just click on the link “översikt” to
get an overview.

Fred Middleton
September 26, 2008 5:33 am

Stand-by power wind, solar, gas turbine, are heavily subsidized. My N.Calif electric giant is required to purchase this stand-by power at an elevated cost value regardless if there is less expensive coal-hydro-nuke-oil available.
Wind turbine – high maintenance is good for a person that wants to establish family roots – like at Tehachapi’s 5000 units
Alternative elect production needs to be a local application. NIMBY (not in my back yard) needs social counseling redirection. San Francisco is an ideal wind location – NIMBY(first verse of the Green bible)
IMO Wind electric (excluding ‘no other alternative’) is a twin infant of the current House-Finance SNAFU. Heavy handed Congressional-CA Legislative bodies are playing pocket pool with special interests.
REA – Rural Electrification Act (Shasta Dam 1936) sells power to small REA-born providers at less than cost. These providers buy more than they could ever use. Regulations allow them to sell to the main-stream grid providers (PG &E) at ‘market price’ stand-by power rates (more expensive than the National Grid rate). In other words these stand-by power rates (always profit level) reflect PG&E electric users bill rates.

September 26, 2008 5:55 am

Reply by John Goetz: OK, so we give up on wind?
No – not entirely. However, the picture the greens try to paint of wind power being a replacement for the current sources of power that drive our modern industrial society is bogus! Sure, wind power can economically provide a bit of power at the margins but that’s about it. Its use should not be subsidised. Let the technology stand on its own two feet from an economic perspective with a focus on the best situated sites. If private investors can make it work there without sudsidy THEN it can expand to wider use as the technology and the related economics improve. However, don’t hold your breath there as any further improvements on this front are likely to be incremental in nature with no big breakthroughs.

Mike McMillan
September 26, 2008 6:02 am

yonason (21:38:18) :
“…you see it’s being paid for by the government, not you or me.” — Mike McMillan (21:22:41)
Uh, you’re joking, …right?

Right. Were I commenting to the RealClimate hockeypuckstick readership, I would feel obligated to state the obvious, but not here.
A real environmental problem with boutique power like wind and solar is energy density. Coal and nuke plants are relatively compact, but to generate equivalent megawatts with wind/solar takes vastly more acreage, and at that, it’s only unreliable part-time power.
Patrick Henry (04:44:32) :
Coal burning power plants should cover their smokestacks with wind turbines and solar panels.
Take another look at the second photo above. I think that’s what they did.
Ric Werme (21:50:22) :
… Perhaps excess electricity could be used to electrolyze water, and (at least the hydrogen) be fed into a pipeline system. Hydrogen can be stored for the slow production periods …
Hydrogen has its own problems, such as leakage and hydrogen embrittlement of metals like steel. It sits atop a metals column in the periodic table, and like mercury, it’s soluble in a number of metals, soaking in and weakening. The molecules are so small, they will leak thru seals and joints with little provocation.
I’ll admit it does burn cleanly, e.g. Challenger and Hindenburg.

September 26, 2008 6:06 am

Ask any pilot who has extensive experiene with propeller driven aircraft such as the C-130. “Prop” is a four letter word, and they are clearly the work of the devil! 😉

George M
September 26, 2008 6:07 am

The suggestion that area averaging be done to smooth out inconsistent output has one rather obvious problem. It requires a massive transmission line grid, which does not exist, and if the greens have their way, will never exist. The present transmission line loading is approaching critical in many corridors, and adding variable wind generated power will quickly collapse the system. Even TBP is running into major problems getting his proposed farm output to urban areas a couple hundred miles away.

Ron McCarley
September 26, 2008 6:36 am

I have seen wind generators in the West while on vacation, but In Tennessee where I live, wind speed averages 4-7 mph throughout the year, making it unsuitable for elec. generation. In fact, the entire Southeast has been rated as unsuitable. Some 93% of wind generation potential lies west of the Mississippi. This is important because the Federal legislation that has been discussed may have across-the-board penalties for all States if they don’t do renewable energy. But Tennessee can’t do commercial solar, wind, or natural gas. Senator Alexander has estimated that ill-advised legislation could unfairly impact our residents. At the present time, national wind power is no more than a local phenomenon, because transmission lines don’t exist to get it from its generation in the West to where most people live, in the East.

Pamela Gray
September 26, 2008 6:38 am

Hey guys and gals, little harsh don’t ya think? Hell, the first artificial heart sucked too. But at least somebody had the guts to come up with the first one along with the guy who said, “plant that sucker here doc”. Since then, how often do you hear about artificial heart implants? Never. But they are being used in lots and lots of people’s chests because they have gotten better.
I see nothing wrong with the notion that current wind towers suck, kill stuff, and apparently break wind. I find the process of innovation a kick in the pants to watch and thank God there are people out there with the guts to to do it. They sure as hell get no praise for their efforts. As far as I know, dead inventors of stuff we use now got none when they were alive either.

Phil M
September 26, 2008 6:40 am

Looks like we need to go nuclear
– you know France produces about 80% of its electricity from Nuclear
– and their electricity is cheaper then the UK’s

Bill Marsh
September 26, 2008 6:49 am

“Håkan B (05:16:33) :
Here in Sweden we can look at the production online for a total of
787 turbines with an installed effect of 682 MW. They are right now
producing 28 MW, thats about 4%, impressing?”
Okay so, doing some limited math, in order to have enough wind turbines to replace say the new gas fired power plant near Dresden, Ohio that will generate 580MW we’d need to place (580/28)*787 ~ 16,000 wind turbines. Assuming each wind turbine requires ~1acre of land so we’d need 16,000+ acres devoted to these beasts (for those like me who are challenged to visualize 16,000 acres, it’s roughly 25 square miles) AND would have to install infrastructure to collect the power from each turbine and transport it to the grid. Sounds like a great idea to me..

September 26, 2008 7:04 am

Michael (20:25:18) :
“…shows the instantaneous Texas grid load, but has to be refreshed manually. I notice they have added the wind power output to the chart.”
That’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for!
Thank you!
Anyone else have any?

Ron Michaels
September 26, 2008 7:19 am

Here is a good article on the rating and scaling specifications for Wind generation as compared for a single nuclear generation facility.
Plus a link to the PDF file.

Francois O
September 26, 2008 8:09 am

I see from this board that most people do not necessarily oppose wind power. They oppose heavily subsidized wind power. That can make sense. But what’s the best balance? Susidize a technology too much, and there is no incentive to make it more efficient. Subsidize it too little, and there is no incentive either to develop it. Sometimes, subsidies are not always apparent. Integrated circuit technology, an American invention (trivia: who remembers by whom?) was heavily “subsidized” by the Army’s missile program and by the space program. They bought millions of immature chips, and probably most of them failed. Of course, what they didn’t do is force industry to include the chips in household electronics, which would soon have led to a consumer backlash! People would have complained (rightly) that the technology didn’t work!
I’ve had a long talk last year with an engineer who spent his life working on windmill technology. I was actually doing a sociological study of the dynamics of the acceptance of new technologies for a course I was taking. I won’t explain what my findings were here, but I’ll just say that that engineer was very much convinced of the potential of wind power. All those issues of intermittency, unreliability, etc. can be resolved, and in fact most have been resolved already. It’s really an engineering problem, and why should we not trust our capacity to solve it? 20% of total grid power is apparently very easy to handle, with backup thermal or, even better, hydroelectric plants (who essentially act as energy storage devices).
But the problem is mainly political. Greens have pushed for wind power too much, and governments have agreed to install a lot of immature wind farms, and apparently would be quite happy if all this turned into a fiasco. A lot of people who commented on this board think the same!
Here in Quebec, a lot of wind farms have been installed, but the problem is that they’re not at the right place! We have tremendous wind potential, but it’s way up north, where terrain is flat, wind is abundant, and not too many people live. Furthermore, we already have the transmission lines because the bulk of our hydroelectric plants are over there. But that would be too easy. Much better to install them in populated, but poor areas, and pretend you’re helping the local economy, but are actually enriching clever businessmen who will, who knows, contribute to your next campaign!?

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 8:19 am

Actually, wind can be used as reliable baseload power:
Dont take my word for it —
Stanford University:
“The researchers used hourly wind data, collected and quality-controlled by the National Weather Service, for the entire year of 2000 from the 19 sites. They found that an average of 33 percent and a maximum of 47 percent of yearly-averaged wind power from interconnected farms can be used as reliable baseload electric power. These percentages would hold true for any array of 10 or more wind farms, provided it met the minimum wind speed and turbine height criteria used in the study.”
BTW, Many of the turbines in Altamont are 25+ years old with technology that is 2 or 3 generations old.

September 26, 2008 8:28 am

Large-scale wind generation may, by removing some energy from the wind, help stave off global cooling.

Alan Chappell
September 26, 2008 8:49 am

The Danish are in the process of decommissioning a large part of there wind farms, the problem is that they have not enough capacity ( the country is to small ) to absorb the surges created by the fluctuation in wind power generation. To absorb these fluctuations they have been putting them into the German grid at a cost of several hundred million € a year, to combat this expenditure they have had to spend millions to buy ‘proposed’ generation costs from wind turbine companies, the whole ‘wind farm fiasco’ is a lesson in idiots leading idiots.
Bob Lackey
Geothermal power is great but it is lacking in technology. New Zealand is the worlds leader and they have as yet to find a way to drill and use the heat, the problem is that (example) if you drill into a hot spot and drill another hole say 500ft distance and then join the 2 shafts together it does not take very long before the surrounding area cools as the heat is absorbed by the exchanger, natural steam vents (as found in New Zealand and Yellowstone Park) are in NZ used to drive turbines, and are very successful.
As to ‘storing’ energy, the only economical and proven way is in off peak hours, pump water up a mountain into a lake and when required bring it down to run the turbines and into a lake at the bottom of the mountain, a closed system that uses the excess power generation ( off peak, no shut-down big savings)

The engineer
September 26, 2008 8:51 am

@ Dee Norris
You keep talking like this is an either .. or problem. It isn’t
Its a and…and solution.
Wind and Sea and Solar and Biomasse and Gas and Coal and Petrol.
Please start expanding your energy capabilities for two reasons.
1) America doesn’t set the price of petrol – OPEC does. And as long as they want to play their game you are their petrol slaves.
2) Perhaps you wouldn’t need to invade iran/iraq in the future.
Reply – I don’t remember invading Iraq, sorry. Best of luck to you. – Dee Norris

Bern Bray
September 26, 2008 8:54 am

Here in Northern Colorado and Wyoming we have a couple of large wind farms. If you suffer from “green guilt” you may have the privilege of paying 15% more for your electricity in order to receive “wind generated” electricity. I live outside the Boulder CO city limits so I don’t suffer from this particular malady. However, there seems to be quite an infection of it in general, as it is reported that there is good participation in the program.
I call this an ignorance tax since the power goes straight to the grid and I get as many “green” electrons running through my house as anyone paying the surcharge. To all those that suffer from green guilt: I’m happy that you have the disposable income to waste on this kind of thing.
Besides, I have personally planted hundreds of pine trees at Ft. Robinson NE. I figure my “carbon footprint” is covered for life. I’d like to see algore out there sticking seedlings in the ground in the snow and mud.

September 26, 2008 8:56 am

Massachusetts Governor: People Could Freeze to Death this Winter
“Governor Patrick says there’s a real possibility that people in America could freeze to death this winter due to the soaring cost of home heating fuel.”
But let’s forget about that and build more windmills.

September 26, 2008 9:00 am

Solar and Wind generated power, rather than required redundant backup generation sources, will really only be cost effective when coupled with an efficient power storage system.
In simple terms, think of Wind or Solar generating power to pump water uphill and behind a dam. When lots of power is available a lot of water is pumped, when no energy is available, nothing is pumped. Water is released from the dam to generate electricity in a classical way.
I would think energy storage coupled to intermittent generation is how it needs to work. But, in the end, this mechanism must be proven to be cost effective before I can get excited about any of it.
Private companies should continue to create small wind and solar farms, learn about it, explore the practical needs and maintenance, tweak it, refine it and try to drive the costs down. Until is it on par or less than coal or nuclear, I’m not interested.

September 26, 2008 9:03 am

Karl Heuer- Interesting.
So lets put up a 1.5 MW wind tower for $3500/kW. That kW is nameplate rating. At a good wind site, we can expect availability of 25% of nameplate rating. Based on the Stanford study, between 1/3 and 1/2 of this power can be relied on for baseload (i.e. you can schedule it for day-ahead grid planning). That means we can use wind for baseload generation if we are willing to spend $3500/(0.25*0.5) = $28,000/kW for it. Just to remind people, a brand-spanking new nuclear plant currently runs about $6800/kW, and it has a baseload availability of 93%. And nuclear is the most expensive of conventional sources in terms of capital costs.
Also, I just checked electricity sources and prices in wind-loving Denmark. In 2007, about 19% of electricity was supplied by wind at an availability of 26%. The average retail electricity price in Denmark was 37 cents/kWhr, with peak demand prices considerably higher.
With all of those wind towers, you would expect Denmark’s CO2 emissions from the power grid to have dropped. Indeed, the CO2 emissions related to electricity production have dropped (albeit an almost imperceptible amount) from 58 MTonnes in 1998 to 56 MTonnes in 2007. With 3.1GW of installed wind at an average price of $3500/kW, that is a cost of $10.9B for a 2MTonne/year amelioration. Over 20 years, that comes to $271/Tonne. Looks like the cap and trade value of CO2 needs to be bumped up a bit.

September 26, 2008 9:32 am

Whilst in the navy and operating with helicopters I know the pilots were paranoid about anything hitting the rotor blades as the smallest chip/dent/etc caused imbalance.
How do wind turbines fair when hit by birds, bats, kites, hang-gliders, etc.
I would think the time spent on blade maintenance and balancing would be high (thus costly) plus this equals downtime.
I don’t think this would be an issue. In a chopper you have a much higher velocity of rotation meaning anything hitting it will have much more force, hence more damage (plus the psychological issue of wondering if running into a bird in a chopper will kill you). The low spin rate of the windmill will not generate as much force to cause damage with something colliding into it.

September 26, 2008 9:38 am

Wind power is fine for small scale and specialized applications. What it isn’t good for is main power grid production. Unfortunately it and solar are being taken from their very good and efficient niche uses and being sold as a replacement power generation system for the main grid. Neither of them can actually meet that kind of goal, which doesn’t make them bad. It just indicates that they are being utilized for applications that they are not good for.

Leon Brozyna
September 26, 2008 10:01 am

Just looking at those windmills, it should be obvious that they can never supply enough power to replace coal or hydroelectric. Each one is so small – just think of the number of windmills that will be down due to the inevitable maintenance issues. In a coal-fired plant or a hydroelectric dam, extra capacity is built in to allow for generators being off-line for routine maintenance. Just picture the number of acres with extra windmills that have to be built just to allow for inevitable down time. And if the wind’s not blowing, all the extra capacity in the world will do no good unless you have a back-up plan.
It just strikes me as a really bad idea straight out of fantasyland. And taxpayers are getting the shaft on this scheme as well.

September 26, 2008 10:10 am

spangled drongo (18:29:57) :
If wind was ever to be a genuine alternate energy source we would still have wind powered commercial shipping.
The ocean is one place wind will work if it is ever going to.

SkySails in Germany is developing a kite system for commercial shipping. It’s not intended to eliminate the engine in a ship, but to supplement it and reduce fuel consumption. The prototype systems are installed and being tested on a couple of cargo ships at the moment. Interesting stuff.
SkySails site.

Frank Perdicaro
September 26, 2008 10:12 am

Small scale wind and solar are a good fit in some markets,
like here in SoCal. But regulation makes it so that these
resources are infrequently used.
SoCal wind and solar are a good fit for residential use due
to two factors. First, we have net metering. Second we have
HIGHLY non-linear pricing. Pricing is done by “baseline +
tiers”. The baseline is about enough electricity to run a few
lights and a refrigerator for a month. The cost is low. The
next unit is 2nd tier, and it costs twice as much. The 3rd
unit is 3rd tier, and costs 4x as much. The fourth unit is
4th tier and it costs 12x as much. MANY people have bills
using 4th tier power, and they are paying 10x the average
national electric rate.
Having a small solar array or wind turbine for the exact and
only purpose of eliminating 4th tier charges is a good choice.
Typical payoff time is less than 3 years. If the system is
enlarged and sized to zero out the electric bill, payoff time
is decades.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 10:13 am

$3,500/kw installed is absolutely ludicrous
Installation costs for wind are $1.365K/kw rated in 2006
“Figure 20 shows that average costs equaled $1,365/kW nationwide, but vary by region.”
Economies of scale from larger turbines and larger farms (Pickens just ordered 667 turbines from GE Wind for 1 site)
will continue to lower installation costs in terms of real dollars.

September 26, 2008 10:21 am

Lots of little breakable things scattered around are a maintenance nightmare.

George E. Smith
September 26, 2008 10:24 am

Anthony, I am very familiar with three of those well known California Wind farms. The Altamont Pass farm in the SF Bay area, is on the way to my favorite local fishing hole, and there is another at Pacheco Pass going over the hills from San Jose area to highway 5 where my second fishing hole is. Then I frequently drive by the Tehatchapee farm going through Moab to southern California.
I have no idea what the average power of those windmills is, but I doubt they are in the megaWatt class; and yes, it is quite common to see a significant fraction that are out of action or down for repairs. They have a natural self destruction mechanism due to wind shear. The wind speed near the ground is much less than the winds aloft as any sailor knows, so when a fan blade is near the ground the wind is low and when it is over the tower, the wind is higher, and the thrust on the blades goes as the square of the wind speed. So the blade is constantly driven by a cyclic variable thrust at the rotation rate of the fan. The resultant of the three blades may be a fairly constant thrust on the tower (it isn’t because of the non linear speed/thrust relation) but each blade sees the full pulsating thrust, so the blades slowly shake themselves to death. When the farm is working properly, all the blades are phase locked so the vibration frequency is very exact and constant; and they simply fail (individually) by fatigue.
The power output goes up as the cube of the speed; but because of the squared thrust relation, the maximum wind speed has to be curtailed, since a doubling of the design wind speed ; which will happen quite regularly, will result in four times the blade and tower load; so they need to be turned off and clamped down during high winds; which severely hampers their operating up time.
Going down in wind speed, while not destructive is somewhat more undesirable, because a drop in wind speed to half the design velocity results in the loss of 87.5% of the generating capacity.
Altogether a rather poor sort of energy source.
Also they take far more than the advertised amount of space, because each fan needs an intake “duct” and an exit duct to allow air to flow smoothly through the fan. Each of those three farms in my area have large unusable stretches of terrain in front of and behind the actual towers, where alternative usea are limited without causing air flow constriction.
They are actually gas turbine engines, where solar energy provides the heating of the working fluid (air), and a napkin calculation based on the temperature difference shows that the carnot efficiency is very low; indicating that these wind turbines have a very poor coupling to the incoming solar energy.
Solar cells may only be about 10% efficient (installed efficiency); but wind turbines are way less than that in solar conversion efficiency.
And as that Danish movie shows; the self destruction can be quite spectacular.
The wind shear problem forces you to raise the tower height to reduce the amount of cyclic thrust variation; but that just exacerbates the problem of designing the tower to take the loads.
A niche application at best.
REPLY: Excellent summary, thanks. – Anthony

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 10:27 am

And for you who think nuclear is the answer:
1. Current world uranium production does not even meet current need. (this is data from an industry site)
Worldwide Production 2007 = ~42,000 Tonnes
Worldwide Uranium Need 2007/2008 = ~64,600
2. US uranium reserves are insufficient to support any signifigant expansion of US nuclear industry and will simply make us dependent on foreign Uranium
US Uranium Recoverable Reserves: = 342,000 Tonnes
US current use/need = ~19,000/yr
US need to provide 50% of electricity (not overall energy) = ~48,000 (currently US nuc provides 19% of us electricity).
Years of US reserves at increased rate = 7

Bill Marsh
September 26, 2008 10:38 am

Phil M (06:40:08) :
Looks like we need to go nuclear
– you know France produces about 80% of its electricity from Nuclear
– and their electricity is cheaper then the UK’s
The problem with France’s nuclear power is that nuke plants operate at one speed, by design, power output cannot be adjusted to provide peak power needs. As a result France has to go to the grid and buy power on the spot market to meet peak power needs. This is hideously expensive and the French are dependent on others for their power needs. Going all nuke is not such a good idea.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 10:45 am

And the initial construction costs for a nuclear plant are astronomical:
For a 2 reactor (Westinghouse AP 1000’s) 2300MWe total Progress Energy has told shareholders and regulator $17 Billion — that is $7391/KW and the site required 3100 Acres
“”They may be more expensive,” Progress Energy informed state regulators in documents filed Tuesday.”
The timeline for new nuc plant construction averages 6 years

Ed Scott
September 26, 2008 10:55 am

Is it possible to extrapolate the results of the video clip to the potential hazard T. Boone’s turbines would face in its proposed location in Tornado Alley?
My son-in-law worked for a wind turbine generator company who have/had installations in the Netherlands. The MTBF at that time was not good.

M White
September 26, 2008 11:00 am
Eric Anderson
September 26, 2008 11:01 am

I too have been struck by the small number of turbines actually turning when I’ve gone over Altamont or down near Palm Springs. Strange and a bit disappointing. However, I do have one positive story about wind power.
Last month I spent a week at Top of the World lodge in the high country of northern Wyoming. It is located at 9,400 feet and the terrain goes up from there — truly impressive country. The store/lodge uses a conventional generator to generate most of its electricity, but also has a single, medium-sized wind turbine that is turning quite regularly, due to the pervasive winds at that altitude and location.
I made it a point to ask the proprietor about the turbine and whether he got much energy from it. He indicated that the turbine produced about 25% of his total electricity and that he was quite happy with it for the most part.
So this is a successful wind-energy story, but it comes with a some caveats: (i) the wind energy is used to supplement an always-available conventional generator, (ii) there is no distribution challenge, as the energy is being used right on site, (iii) the location has a good wind profile, (iv) the turbine is small enough to not have a large visual or wildlife impact (the turbine was not particularly noisy, but there was an audible swish-swish all the time that would have been nice to do without (although not as noisy as the conventional generator)).
I leave it to others to decide whether this success story is something that could be widely replicated for larger-scale wind energy production, or whether successful wind energy generation ultimately is limited to small, site-specific situations like Top of the World.
REPLY: “I too have been struck by the small number of turbines actually turning when I’ve gone over Altamont or down near Palm Springs.” But you’re OK now, right? No permanent injuires? 😉 Anthony

Ron McCarley
September 26, 2008 11:09 am

Someone may have already mentioned this, but take a good look at the photo. You’ll see the fire dept. standing on the road instead of fighting the fire. A good reason is that these turbines are so tall today that many fire depts. can’t do anything but watch them burn. The nacelle (main body) can easily be 25+ stories tall, and fire hoses have an obviously difficult time with that height. Each can also hold 200 gallons of lubricant, which makes for a great bonfire. Check out the lawsuit threats in Calif. over the bird kills at Altamont Pass, that averaged 5000 bird kills per year there for 20 years.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 11:10 am

As far as electricity production as a percentage of rated capacity:
Denmark 2006
Wind Turbine Capacity 3135MW
Wind Electricity Production 6.11Twh (6,108 GWh)
GWh capacity of 3135MW = 3.135GW*8760 hours/yr =27,463GWh
Production = 6,108 GWH
6108/27463 = .2224
Overall production as % of rated capacity 22.24%
That makes 1KW effective production capacity for wind = ~$5000 — much less than wind
plus you can dual use the land wind turbines sit on — cows don’t care,
farmers/landowners can earn royalties
I have never heard of terrorists targeting a wind farm
you can’t make a dirty bomb from the downwind leftover breeze
you can dismantle a wind turbine and tower, and re-assemble it pretty much anywhere
The turbine in the graphic caught fire and burned a field
Chernobyl caught fire and burned the world

George E. Smith
September 26, 2008 11:16 am

I haven’t read all the comments but I went through quite a few; and it always amazes me that people spend so much time evaluating and talking about the economics of wind (write in your own pet alternative energy). This inevitably leads to discussions of subsidies; and then “economies of scale” keeps cropping up.
This naturally leads one to conclude that the problem with “alternative” energies is simply an economic problem. Hell! sell 700 billion dollars worth of those suckers to the Feds. That means you put economists to work on that economic problem. When Oil was $2 a barrel, oil shale was going to get competitive if oil went to $6, and when oil was $6, oil shale was looking like a good bet at $11 a barrel. Well no matter how high oil got, the oil shale was “just around the corner.”
Well it is easy to solve the economic problem of say Solar cells. When oil was $25 a barrel, you could make about 6 Watts of solar cells using the energy in that barrel of oil. So lets just put a BIG tax on oil and give the money to people to buy solar cells. Why not $1,000,000 tax on a barrel of oil; that should fix the problem of using fossil fuels.
So you take your subsidy dollars down to your favorite silicon emporium to load up on solar cells.
Dang ! says the proprietor; you should have come in yesterday. Yesterday I was making 6 Watts of cells out of a barrel of oil and I could break even with you at $4 a watt; but some jackass just upped the cost of oil to $1,000,000 a barrel, and today I can still make 6 Watts of cells, but now I have to charge you $166, 666 per Watt for my cells.
You see the problem of “Alternative energy sources” has absolutely nothing to do with economics; they are all constrained by TECHNOLOGICAL PROBLEMS; mostly the energy CAPITAL it takes to get at that alternative energy; and those problems will NEVER be solved by economists working on the problem.
Face it; energy is either already here on earth; and stored; mostly as either Nuclear fission energy, or hydrocarbon chemical energy; or else it has to come here from somewhere else; and the only real somewhere else is the sun; and we know exactly the rate at which it comes here; and it simply is too damn slow to be viable. At around 1 kW per m^2 maximum, solar energy is simply too diffuse to be very practical. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it where we can; but it is never going to be mainstream.
Now bio-mass is a sort of natural conversion of solar energy; but it is also about the worst mechanism for gathering solar energy because its conversion efficiency is so low.
Solar cell engineers waste their time and efforts trying to make paint on solar cells that cost almost nothing; but that translates into MORE AREA. And it is almost impossible to build any massive area covering system; that can survive a “100 year storm”, that does absolutely nothing, for the price that is needed to build a functional solar energy farm from actual solar cells.
Clearly the whole game for solar energy is !!! EFFICIENCY !!!
I liked Fred Singer;s comment on the proposed large scale American South West Desert solar farm described in Jan 2008 Scientific American.
“Who is going to clean the dust off 30,000 square miles of solar cells. ” Which just incidently, is exactly the size of ANWR.

Peter melia
September 26, 2008 11:19 am

Why do we have the “standard” 3-blade design? Is it because one manufacturer produced the cheapest model and captured the market? Why isn’t there a huge variety of turbine types? Compare the situation of wind turbines now (1) with the beginnings of just about any other form of technical device, when in most cases seemingly every option under the sun was experimented with, before a consensus was arrived at?
Is the 3-bladed design the most efficient? This is dependent upon wind speed and direction. Could there not be explorations made of designs which may avoid these limitations?
Why isn’t more interest taken in wind chimneys, which are basically tall black funnels? All of (at least the first hundred years) of our industrial civilisation powered by boilers using natural chimneys. So why not put the propellers on vertical axes in long black funnels?
(1) How did they become called “Turbines” which they are not? Why was this description seemingly instantly accepted?

George E. Smith
September 26, 2008 11:19 am

I see I moved Moab from Utah to Southern California’s desert. Let’s try Mojave instead.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 11:33 am

M White:
Thorium sounds good — in principle
However, you are talking about total replacement of all current reactors with Thorium based Reactors, with a technology that the proponent scientist in the article says will take 15 years:
“He estimates the cost of a prototype reactor at 550m euros and believes it will take around 15 years to develop: ”
1. Need for a Thorium mining refinement and fuel production system (not easy – pebble bed fuel took decades to develop, and there is still no commercially viable pebble bed reactor )
2. 15 years to develop, if we started today, with unproven technology
3. there are significant daughter products with Thorium including Thorium 228, Thallium, U-233 and U232

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 11:40 am

The three blade design probably provides the best stability for the least cost. The number of blades has nothing to do with the amount of energy the blade can take from the wind,
that is determined by the swept area, which is calculated as the area of a circle described by the radius of any blade.
In Scheveningen, NL (if I remember correctly) there is a 2 bladed turbine, US farmers used many bladed turbines, but for structural integrity vs. weight (the tower has to support the turbine, nacelle, hub, and blades) and cost of materials, the three blades have won out.

September 26, 2008 11:40 am

Karl Heuer:
“Chernobyl caught fire and burned the world.”
Um, no, Karl, it didn’t.
I can’t understand why you’re so anti-nuclear power. Forbes magazine had a great article on the costs to the consumer for energy from various sources. That information shows that a new nuclear plant — brought on-line by 2016 — would provide clean energy at about the same cost as coal: click
Who do you work for, Karl?

September 26, 2008 11:52 am

Karl- The progress energy price-tag of $17B includes $2B for a new transmission line and substations to get the energy to the load centers. That comes to $6520/kW. That is actually quite a bargain compared with wind or solar. I track this pretty closely because I will start paying for the nukes starting next January, to the tune of 4 cents/kWhr price jump on my electric bill. We shall see where the prices finally land. I suspect they will be higher still.
I used to think this was outrageous until I priced out a wind or solar PV/thermal farm that can replace ALL of the power from the nuclear plant.
The total project time for this nuke is actually closer to 10 years. Much of that time is gobbled up by permits and lawsuits. Japan, for example, just completed a big nuclear reactor in 3.5 years.
The Uranium reserves issue is a red herring. Uranium surpluses on the world market halted any exploration or development of known reserves for several decades. That has now changed. I expect Uranium reserves worldwide to easily keep pace with demand for the next 100 years.
Of course, recycling spent fuel rods would extend the fuel life by a factor of five or more. Then, as a poster above mentioned, there’s the Thorium fuel cycle.
Your wind tower prices are out of date. Prices have skyrocketed recently due to high demand (why do we charge so much? because we can!), increased raw materials costs and a shortage of skilled labor for installation and commissioning. May 08 pricing for equipment alone (exclusive of transportation, installation and commissioning) was $3450/kW for off-shore, and $2170/kW for land-based wind towers.
The price of wind (and solar) has not come down over the past 6 years. The cost of solar PV has not budged since 2002, even though production worldwide is up more than a factor of ten. GE just announced a $12B backlog of orders for wind towers. In this kind of market, there is no incentive to reduce prices, but there is a strong incentive to jack them up until customers start crying. By the way, why do we need a production tax credit for wind towers when they are in such demand? Why does the wind lobby group scream that wind installations will plummet if the tax credits and other wind goodies (accelerated depreciation, for example) go away?

September 26, 2008 11:53 am

Karl Heuer “I have never heard of terrorists targeting a wind farm”
I’ve heard of environmentalists opposing wind farms and Ed Abbey postulated about the “grenade point” on dams.
Karl Heuer “you can’t make a dirty bomb from the downwind leftover breeze”
I have never heard of terrorists making a dirty bomb from spent nuclear fuel or any other nuclear material. When was this done?
Karl Heuer “you can dismantle a wind turbine and tower, and re-assemble it pretty much anywhere”
How long of a lifetime does it have? If you re-assemble it “pretty much anywhere” what is the probability that the the wind will suitable, that it won’t affect RADAR, that it won’t affect other electronic transmisions, that it won’t kill bats and raptors like hawks or eagles, that it won’t violate someone’s esthetic values, and that it will be able to be linked to a grid?
Karl Heuer “Chernobyl caught fire and burned the world”
Amazingly enough, the world is still here.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 11:54 am

George Smith:
Solar Cell Engineers are not wasting time with paint-on pv
My roof has an effective area incident to solar radiation of ~2500 square feet, advanced buiding integrated solar photo-voltaic shingles (currently silicon) provide 10-13 watts/square foot.
If they could be made of a coated polymer (much like regular shingles for half the price and get half the power:
My shingled roof would generate 15KW during every hour of solar irradiance — even if we say only 6 hours/day (its alot more than that in the desert SW, and SoCal
Thats 90KWh/day or 2700KWh/month — more than double what the average homeowner uses, plus, I am insulated from grid instability
all that with no need to put an array in my yard
on another related — polymer PV as the lining for your pool, or as a polymer coating on your vinyl siding (in development actually)

September 26, 2008 11:56 am

Karl- Also, Exelon published in its 2007 annual report that, among its fleet of electric generation assets, nuclear was the cheapest source of electricity, at 1.68 cents per kWhr.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 12:04 pm

Tell that to people from the Ukraine and Scandinavia
As far as the estimates, in 2006 they were estimating $3 billion for 1 reactor, I like using current numbers instead of old news
As we know ( from the link I posted above) Progress Energy informed regulators in 2008 that a 2 reactor plant would cost at least $17 Billion
Why am I against nuclear?
1. It is cost and timeline prohibitive, at current construction costs and timelines, to double electricity production using nuclear would cost ~$ 850 Billion, and would take 625 construction years
2. The Uranium production capacity of the US and the World cannot support significant expansion of nuclear energy
3. If we did embark on this path it would be Uranium based because Thorium won’t be technically feasible until atleast 2025
4. It will make the US dependent on foreign Uranium
5. It requires centralized energy production which is inherently susceptible to large scale transmission failures, terrorist attacks, and monopolization by a small oligarch of producers

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 12:05 pm

The cost and timeline of $850 Billion and 625 construction years are for the US only

September 26, 2008 12:13 pm

A study analyzing the output of all 2300 operating British wind mills shows that their yield is the same as the output from one mid-sized coal powered generation plant.

September 26, 2008 12:24 pm

Wind/Solar.. How about the most reliable and predictable source of “green” energy. The tide happens twice a day every day and can be tapped 4 times (coming and going) .
Serrations on blades are used to reduce the drag bubble and increase the efficiency of the wing. Turbulators have been on sailplanes for years exactly for that purpose.

Robert Lewis
September 26, 2008 12:27 pm

In Texas, at least, wind power isn’t so reliable. The Electric Reliability
Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the power grid in Texas, and they
“Using 2006 data, ERCOT has determined that 8.7% of the installed wind
capability can be counted as dependable capacity during the peak demand
period for the next year.”
Citing the 8.7% of capacity figure to wind power enthusiasts is almost
as fun as telling small children there is no Santa Claus.
There is also the inconvenient truth that the windiest parts of Texas are
far from the major cities, so there’s an additional multi-billion $$$
cost of transmission lines:

Alan B
September 26, 2008 12:35 pm

As someone mentioned, going all nuke is not a good idea because of its inability to load follow. The same is true of gas fired plant, at least the design in the UK. If they are varied by even a few % the thermal stresses on the plant reduce the life dramatically.
In the UK we have for a very long time gone for a mix of plant:
Nuclear for 24/7 baseload + High efficiency coal plant for 24/7 baseload
Older, more flexible, coal fired plant for 2-shifting – on around 7 a.m., off in the evening as demand requires.
Gas turbines for peaking – almost instantaneous (~1 minute) power to meet peak demands e.g. end-of-popular TV programmes with the assistance of:
Pumped storage where coal plant are pumping water to an upper reservoir at, say, 1000MW. The pumps are turned off (1000MW to the grid) and water runs down hill to generate power (another 1000MW to the grid).
A tiny amount of hydropower.
Gas plants challenged on cost but did nothibg to improve flexibility (and were able to break the rules on flexibility for reasons I could never understand).
Concerning 2-shifting, I worked briefly on a power station with 3×120 MW units that started every morning and the turbines went from 0-120 MW in one block load. This went on for at least 10 years (probably a lot longer) without any serious issues other than planned maintainence.
Instead of planned replacement of ageing nuclear and coal-fired plant, the govenment has believed the EU requirements and our great Prime Minister is now suggesting we should reduce our CO2 emissions by 80% instead of 60% (which is madness in its own right).
Windpower, of course, comes in here but we will need flexible capacity to cover the loss of windpower which is not planned. The worst time is a regular feature of the British climate – long periods (1 week or more) when we have high pressure over the mainland, below freezing temperatures (I know, warm by Vermont standards …) and dead calm.
Even now we are being told we could have power cuts this winter. There will be major blackouts in a few years before we can get the plant built that we need because the nukes will close and we will have to shut down perfectly good coal plant to meet EU rules. Insanity.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 12:38 pm

In 2007 Denmark had 3125MW installed wind
Wind produced 7173GWh a 1065GWh increase from 2006
That is an actual production rate of 26.2% of rated capacity

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 12:59 pm

Robert said:
“Citing the 8.7% of capacity figure to wind power enthusiasts is almost
as fun as telling small children there is no Santa Claus.”
Except you have conflated peak demand reserve and production capacity:
“In Texas, the average capacity factor of wind farms
installed in 2004 through 2005 is 39 percent,
compared to 32 percent for projects installed between
2000 and 2001 and 19.6 percent for those installed before 1998.”
“The West Texas wind
farms that generate power for the city of Austin’s
utility company, Austin Energy, have capacity factors
ranging from 35 percent to 40 percent.” pages 166-167

Alan B
September 26, 2008 12:59 pm

“Chernobyl caught fire and burned the world”
What have you been told? And by whom?
Let me tell a true, but little known story …
There was a moment of sanity in the middle of the Cold War (remember – the time when the dead bodies of the Soviet leadership were wheeled out for the October Revolution parades – I exagerate, but not by much).
The Soviets were so desparate for foreign exchange that they thought they might be able to sell their nuclear power plants to the UK so they invited a team from the (then) CEGB to talk about buying into their RBMK – the Chernobyl system but before Chernobyl got its bad name. The RBMK was, I believe, the system built primarily for plutonium bomb production and then modified for electricity generation. Cheap. low technology and dirty.
Our experts went over there and had a careful look at the RBMK. It had the great advantage that high quality steel and welding was hardly needed. It was described to me as little more than good quality blacksmithing! Cheap to build but inherently unsafe to the point of dangerous. Unlike the PWR it had a positive power feedback i.e. if the reactor started to overheat it made the core even more reactive and even hotter – exactly as the Chernobyl core behaved. The feedback ended by a chemical engineering-type explosion. Not, of course, a nuclear explosion which is impossible by the laws of physics.
We told them what we thought (politely and firmly) and explained that the CEGB would not even consider the RBMK and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate – out watchdog with real teeth – would probably close down all our plant if we suggested it because it was so obviously stupid that we must have gone totally mad and couldn’t even be trusted with inherently stable plant! (All right, we didn’t quite say that to the Russians but it was true and we did point out the risk of a Chernobyl-type fault.)
Our engineers left. The Iron Curtain then descended again.
After Chernobyl, a number of CEGB engineers were able to say, “We told you so”, although with great sadness at the (limitted) loss of life.
Chernobyl was a disaster waiting to happen and dwarfed into total insignificance what happened at Three Mile Island.
It bears no relationship to the US, UK, Canadian or French style of nuclear plant.

Chris C
September 26, 2008 1:10 pm

Ah Clean Energy FAIL. I posted that to FAIL Blog a few days ago. Glad you enjoyed it! Keep up your good work.

Bern Bray
September 26, 2008 1:26 pm

Interesting, but good luck with that. As an avid kite enthusiast and builder of several “man lifter” kites, I can guarantee that kites do pretty much what the wind wants them to do. You can ask my friend’s son who shoved his hip’s ball socket down through his femur, splitting it like a banana. He fell from 25 feet from a tethered parafoil when a 60mph gust caused the knots in the 500 lb dacron “stringers” to literally melt.
The first time one of those wraps around the ships propeller, will be the last time it is used. That is only one of the reasons that American warships no longer tow Cody kites behind them with a man in a basket for surveillance.

September 26, 2008 1:34 pm

Karl Heuer:

Why am I against nuclear?
1. It is cost and timeline prohibitive…

That makes zero sense. As the Forbes chart and paminator both show, the resulting cost of nuclear produced electricity would be very low. What does the opportunity cost matter, as long as there is a reasonable profit, and the electricity is produced at a relatively low price?

2. The Uranium production capacity of the US and the World cannot support significant expansion of nuclear energy

That was already refuted upthread. Why do you keep digging that hole deeper? And so what if it takes time for a thorium reactor to come on line? So what? Are you making that argument because a thorium-based power plant would negate your preposterous claim that the world is running out of uranium?

4. It will make the US dependent on foreign Uranium

As if the U.S. isn’t already dependent on foreign oil. Had Congress [a wholly-owned subsidiary of the enviro lobby] not stopped nuclear power, we would be much less dependent on foreign oil. And don’t worry, the uranium is there. It’s even in our Southwest [remember Geiger counters?] The market will produce it when it’s needed.

5. It requires centralized energy production which is inherently susceptible to large scale transmission failures, terrorist attacks, and monopolization by a small oligarch of producers

That’s just silly Marxist claptrap. The same thing could be said about many large projects, like the Hoover dam. And please, get your definitions right. It’s not an “oligarch.” What you’re referring to is an oligopoly, which in economic terms defines the most competitive kind of business there is, bar none. And competition benefits the consumer. Think about Ford competing with Honda, or BMW with Daimler. They’re part of an oligopoly, and they compete intensely.
I don’t think you’re really a Malthusian Luddite, Karl, even though those are the kinds of arguments you’re making. You’re smarter than that.

September 26, 2008 2:01 pm

Windmills in sweden only produce 30% of there capacity.
Test the left links and you get some data.
40-45 % energy is by nueclur and 45 % by water power and the rest by different powerplants and denmark is one of the different and that means coalplants and skyrockets swedish energyprices .
We once closed down a nuclear power plant near by denmark and now we are importing power from denmark and that makes our energypriceses higher than before.
I hope the windmills vill work when we have -20c wintertime, winter 84/85 i did my second military duty and the temps was between -15c and -40c in south scandinavia .
My hair was stuck to the tent wall that winter !

September 26, 2008 2:30 pm

Karl- “That is an actual production rate of 26.2% of rated capacity”
If you read my post from 9:03 this morning you could have saved yourself some time.
Save yourself some more time by reading some of the other excellent posts here.
The progress energy costs are $17B for the 2 reactors, the transmission line and substations. This is common knowledge if you read any authoritative articles describing the project.
As for relying on Uranium from foreign governments, how do you feel about Canada? They have huge Uranium reserves and exploration continues. As a Canadian, I am eager to have my country sell as much Uranium to the US as it needs.

September 26, 2008 2:42 pm

Bulaman (12:24:24) :

Wind/Solar.. How about the most reliable and predictable source of “green” energy. The tide happens twice a day every day and can be tapped 4 times (coming and going).

Might work for me. If my computer lost power four times a day I’d spend less time reading WUWT and my productivity might improve.
Good thing the nearest tide is only 60 miles from here.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 3:03 pm

It is at least 17 Billion for the project. Lets not obfuscate.
The transmission facilities total $3 Billion, that still leaves
$7 Billion a reactor or approximately $7K/kw
more than 5 times the cost to install wind — as I posted.
Texas wind is at an average of 39% production capacity for newly installed turbines (2004-2005) as I posted above.
Bottom Line:
Wind can supply more energy, faster, cheaper(total-lifecycle including waste storage/loss of land use, and decommissioning costs), and with less risk both financially and technically.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 3:16 pm

Thats why there is 9000MW of Wind capacity under construction in the US as of 6/30/2008.
There was 5244 Installed in 2007 — 100% increase
World Nuclear Generating Capacity Jan 2007 — 368,860MWe
World Nuclear Generating Capacity Jan 2007 — 372,059MWe
A 3100MW increase in capacity world-wide.
2006 Installed Wind Capacity – 74,152MW
2007 Installed Wind Capacity – 93,849MW
Increased Capacity 19,700MW @ average production capacity ratings of new farms (35%) an installed effective capacity of 6895MW
Gee, I wonder who will win this race, I’m betting on wind.
Thats why there is 9000MW of new Wind capacity under construction or completed in the US as of 6/30/2008.
There was 5244 Installed in 2007 — 100% increase
The economics make sense — thats why people are investing in and building wind instead of nuclear around the world.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 3:17 pm

JAN 2008 – 372,059 sorry for typo

September 26, 2008 3:24 pm

Karl Heuer
“The economics make sense — thats why people are investing in and building wind instead of nuclear around the world.”
They are building it because of production tax credits to subsidize the development, if there was no subsidy nobody would be doing it.
I say no subsidy and fix the product so it is more efficent. Installed Capacity is not a measure of performance wind generates 18% of installed capacity of average.
It takes 5 years just for the amazingly stupid environmental assessments for Nuclear, while the EPA rubber stamps wind.

September 26, 2008 3:43 pm

Who do you work for, Karl?

September 26, 2008 4:05 pm

Karl Heuer
“The economics make sense — thats why people are investing in and building wind…”
If I remember correctly, many states have enacted laws requiring a set percentage of electricity to come from renewable sources (non carbon sources). The economics are controlled to some degree by state mandates. The mandates are the the result of politicians reacting to CO2 caused global warming, and reacting in a manner that does not cost the politicians any money. The cost is transferred to consumers via higher prices and the politicians are blame free. Blame the evil electric company.
The lunatics are running the asylum.

Robert Lewis
September 26, 2008 4:45 pm

In reply to Karl Heuer (12:59:13)
Thanks for your post in response to mine, and all your posts that have made this a lively thread.
You’re absolutely right that I was thinking of peak demand rather than the time-averaged capacity factor. My point (which I see now I entirely omitted from my post) was that during peak summer demand there is still a need for reserve generating capacity from non-wind sources, so peak demand places limits on wind’s role in the grid. I do not question that wind power is a welcome addition to electrical generation capacity, and the 3% it supplies to Texas is not to be ignored. It’s just that there are some hard upper bounds on what wind can do. My wisecrack about the 8.7% figure, by the way, was inspired by a heated argument I recently had with someone who asserted 100% was a realistic target—I hope my poor attempt at humor did not give offense.
Thanks for the link to the Texas Comptroller’s report—it gives an excellent overview of wind power in Texas, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in recent experience with wind power in the USA. For those interested, here is the link again:

September 26, 2008 4:55 pm

“Lets not obfuscate.”
*Indeed*. You quote nameplate wind installation (installed?- not sure) costs from 2006 without accounting for availability, and without including transmission line costs to connect those wind resources to load centers.
Then you compare that with nuclear power costs from 2008 and include the cost of transmission lines and substations to connect that nuclear plant to load centers.
Talk about obfuscation.
By the way, the cost of that same progress energy project in 2006 was estimated at $3500/kW. Shall we use that number now?
There are always locations where wind generation will be excellent, good, fair and poor. An availability of 39% is spectacularly high. If you read the report you linked, the highest availability is in regions with the highest wind class rating. Those regions represent a miniscule portion of Texas.
Here is the Texas wind power potential capacity by wind class-
class 3- 21.1% of land, 396 GW, 20% availability
class 4- 4.4% of land, 102 GW, 26% availability
class 5- 0.75% of land, 21.6 GW, 32% availability
class 6- 0.04% of land, 1.6 GW, 40% availability
class 7- 0%
The class 6 sites are gone or inaccessible. The class 5 sites will be gone soon. The availability factor at a class 3 or class 4 site is 20% – 26%.
I still have not heard any reason why wind towers should receive any subsidies if they are so economical compared with conventional generation. It makes no sense that the presence or absence of a 1.9 cent/kWhr PTC would have such a dramatic impact on investing in such an economical source of electricity.
Oh, here’s a reason. In 2006, wind power prices ranged from 5 to 8.5 cents/kWhr without the PTC, and 3 – 6 cents/kWhr with the PTC. Sounds expensive for wholesale electricity, even with the PTC. And that’s using the highest wind class locations in Texas with 39% availability.
People are building nuclear plants all over the world. Right now.
Its become clear you have some unwarranted fear of nuclear power, and an uncritical love of wind power.

September 26, 2008 4:59 pm

Wind is now going onto the best sites. Sites near consumers, yet with open land, and with good wind energy.
Gradually those prime sites will be used. Construction and maintenance – especially offshore – will be more expensive, wind energy captured per dollar will fall, and transmission distances will grow.
All that is analogous to power from dams; great and wonderful stuff, all we need is another two dozen Columbia Rivers.
Long distance DC transmission can help move power from distant sites to cities. We should be subsidizing that heavily. Just rebuilding grid could provide more power without any new technology or new land acquistion.
Wind advocates are willing to put the towers everywhere. That will require quite a change in public opinion.
Nuclear can be where you want it. The biggest need is abundant water for cooling. Shorter transmission distance means less loss. And fewer miles of lines to construct. That saves money two ways.
Smokey often has sensible remarks. And he has again. There is no shortage of uranium. Period. But the nuclear opponents will just keep saying we won’t have enough uranium.
And other elements such as thorium are even more abundant. There is fuel enough even without breeder reactors.
About five hundred power reactors are running now. About 100 in the US. China, Russia, and India are building them rapidly. The UK has just given the French state-owned utility permission to build nukes in the UK. They need them and their politicians finally faced that fact despite the lunacy of activists.
With all that going on, exactly how is the US better off by having not built a single nuclear power plant since 1983? That was the Palo Verde plant in Arizona. We would be a lot better off if we had 200 now instead of 100.

Keith W
September 26, 2008 5:02 pm

We have participated in numerous Public Service Board hearings for several different wind company projects in Vermont.
The wind company owner/representatives claimed no more than 28% capacity power output for their projects based on wind measurements above 2000 feet here.
Our only operational wind farm at Searsberg has shown a decline of production over the last decade. Some of that decline is associated with declining reliability.
Another dilemma in New England is that the same ridgelines that are proposed for wind projects are also critical habitat for wildlife as well as primary flyways for birds, particularly raptors.
A second consideration is that 400 foot high wind turbines in West Texas are absorbed by the open landscape. When placed on top of New England’s small ridgelines they dwarf everything.
When the ridges are integral to our $2 billion dollar tourist industry the economic tradeoffs are thornier. A local wind project was set aside by our Public Service Board because the larger public good could not be demonstrated compared to other economic considerations.
A recent New York Times article discussed the windfarm development off the mid-Atlantic bight. This large-scale development solves the sustained wind problem and sidesteps some of the location controversies. However, installation and maintenance costs are much higher than land installations.
See the Danish windpower organization site for power production calculations

September 26, 2008 5:07 pm

I don’t think that using windmills to create electricity is the highest and best use for windmills. Windmills make excellent pumps and pumping heated or chilled water from one place to another is very efficient. We use something like 60% of our energy just to heat and cool our homes and buildings. Pumping hot water to a cool place or cold water to a hot place would drastically reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool our buildings and homes.

Les Francis
September 26, 2008 5:24 pm

Sorry Karl, your figures for most of your posts are not quite accurate.
As has already been mentioned. Solar power. Approx 1 Kw is the maximum available energy from 1 square metre of sunlight . Home based solar cells are only 10 -15% efficient (and even then when they are clean and new).
I don’t know how you came up with your figures for your home use.
Remember the first law. Energy cannot be created. Existing energy storage’s or movable energy can be only be converted from one form to another – At great loss.
The trick is to get maximum conversion for what little natural stored energy (as in fossil fuels) and moving energy (wind, tidal). Unfortunately the available energy from moving energy is too low and too erratic for modern requirements.
The energy storage mechanisms such as hydro (pumping water to a great height) and batteries require more energy to create them than is delivered.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 5:28 pm

I agree 100% is ridiculous.
I really don’t know what the upper bound for production capacity will be
Offshore Facilities optimally sited based on detalied surveys of windspeed at 130m above sea level may provide capacity values of 60% or more, seeing as west Texas gets 35%-40% on land.

September 26, 2008 5:52 pm

Karl Heuer (10:45:54) :

And the initial construction costs for a nuclear plant are astronomical:
For a 2 reactor (Westinghouse AP 1000’s) 2300MWe total Progress Energy has told shareholders and regulator $17 Billion — that is $7391/KW and the site required 3100 Acres

Did you read the article?

Building two nuclear reactors in Florida would cost Progress Energy $17 billion, which would increase the bills of the company’s customers in that state by an average of 3 percent to 4 percent a year for 10 years.

Progress’ Florida cost estimate includes $3 billion to build about 200 miles of transmission lines and substations in 10 counties, an expense not anticipated in North Carolina.
In this state, the new reactors would be placed at a site that was designed for four reactors.
The Florida nuclear plants, however, would be built about seven miles from the company’s Crystal River Nuclear Plant on 3,100 acres of former timberland that Progress bought for about $43 million last year.

3 G$ for transmission lines and substations. This suggest that the 17 G$ figure includes everything, not just reactors. It probably has bond financing and interest expense, permitting costs and manpower, turbines, generators, step-up transformers, etc.
You say “required 3100 Acres.” The article doesn’t say that. I’ve visited a minehead coal-fired power plant outside of Pittsburgh PA and three nuclear reactors in New England. The scale of the minehead plant was astounding, but it needed coal storage, fly ash storage, and a cooling tower. Very much a rough industrial site.
Maine Yankee, on the other hand, was a green campus. Grass, trees, no trucks. It used the ocean for cooling, so no cooling tower. Google says 800 acres, 900 MW capacity. I suspect the NRC requires a large buffer zone, but for the most part it’s just a nature preserve.
The others were Yankee Rowe, the first in New England (167 MW, construction cost only 39 M$ in 1960), and the MIT reactor in Cambridge, used for making neutrons and interesting isotopes.
Personally I’d rather live next to a nuclear power plant than almost any other kind. For example, I definitely don’t want to live downstream of a hydro plant, at least not one with a large retention reservoir.

Karl Heuer
September 26, 2008 6:49 pm

My figures are dead on for solar panel watts/ft^2
Evergreen solar 195W panel is 37.5″ by 61.4″ that = 16 square feet ( 1.49 meters^2) at 1000w/m^2 irradiance that is a 13% conversion efficiency
195/16 = 12.2 watts/square foot
half of that is 6 watts/square foot
which is about right for polymer PV (greater than 6% conversion efficiency)
6 watts * 2500 square feet incident surface = 15KW power
@ 6 hours effective sun = 90 KWh
@ 30 days/yr = 2700 KWh
average US KWh usage is 920/month

September 26, 2008 7:11 pm

I don’t suppose it ever occurs to the anti-nukes that lots of United states Navy ships and submarines have used nuclear power plants every day for fifty years.
My boy served for six years on the USS Helena, a nuclear attack sub. He was a nuclear maintenance officer.
Nuclear technology is decades old. No unusual problems are encountered with the Helena’s power plant, or with the other Navy submarines or aircraft carriers to my knowledge. Why should nuclear power for consumers be any different?
Needless worrying about a 3-Mile Island-type accident [which was relatively minor, and which happened almost thirty years ago, and which killed not one person] should be compared with oil tanker accidents.
We don’t stop oil tankers from bringing us energy to give us light and heat when we flip the switch, do we? So why the irrational fear of clean, green, safe nuclear power?

September 26, 2008 9:01 pm

Reply by John Goetz: OK, so we give up on wind?
That would be best, yes. If it were that great of a source, we wouldn’t have quit using it 75 years ago.

September 27, 2008 2:27 am

There’s a breathtakingly simple solution to all this, Karl, as Smokey (et al) intimates: laissez faire. Get the government out and let the market decide. Consumers will naturally adopt the most efficient option, because it’s in their best interest to do so.
Ask yourself this: if wind is so efficient, why does it need to be so heavily subsidized?
From an article we recently published:
“At our current state of technology, no conceivable mix of solar or wind power can meet even half the demand for energy…. Despite years of government subsidies (regulators, for instance, have forced utility companies to buy “renewables”), these same renewables generate only about 0.8 percent of our total electricity….
“The most efficient solar panels currently in use are costly, and their conversion efficiency is about 17 percent, which is not very much. But if wind and solar energy are to become more efficient, it is only science and technology—i.e. the free market—which will get them there.”
And from The Intellectual Activist:
“California has not built a major power plant in 15 years. The reason is that any attempt must endure years of costly lawsuits from environmentalist groups. The Diablo Canyon nuclear station, finally completed in 1985, had its building costs increased twelve-fold, from $500 million to $6 billion. Nuclear plants, despite their unparalleled safety record in the United States, are a favorite target …”
That is why nuclear is more expensive, friend: environmental legislation.
Consider this: your plan would require approximately 1,200 square miles for a single wind power plant.
Compare that to nuclear, which would require only one square mile. The reason: “In terms of wind and solar energy, the flow is exceptionally diluted: solar is 10 to 50 times less concentrated than fossil fuel. When you can’t concentrate it, then, the only way to harvest it is to use more and more land. That’s the limiting factor for both sun and wind energy” (

Håkan B
September 27, 2008 3:57 am

Well seems they are running a little better in Sweden today:
actual sweden
The numbers are as follows:
Number of turbines: 787
Not reported: 70
Out of service: 21
Installed effect: 682 MW
Actual effect: 80 MW
The graph should be read like this:
Blue line daily production.
Red line running average for the last 30 days.
Theoretical daily production: 24*682 = 16368 MWh.
Really not something I would trust for heating during the winter!

September 27, 2008 4:45 am

The photos of broken machinery are not a legitimate argument for or against anything.
They represent only broken machinery.

September 27, 2008 5:15 am

Are you asserting that the MTBF for industrial wind turbines is not a problem?

September 27, 2008 5:25 am

The statement was and is clear:
pictures of broken machinery is not an argument for or against anything. They are only pictures of broken machinery.
A picture of a broken pump jack would be just a picture of a broken pump jack, not an argument for or against oil as an energy source.
A picture of a ripped sail on a sailboat would not be an argument for or against wind as a power source.
A picture of a broken turbine would not be an argument for or against the generation of electricity with them.
Broken machinery or equipment is just that, broken machinery or equipment.

September 27, 2008 5:30 am

I agree and I don’t think the accompanying article tried to make the two examples in to a trend either.

Håkan B
September 27, 2008 6:03 am

Of course one single picture isn’t a proof, but how about a spreadsheet
going back all the way to 2002, showing monthly output for most
swedish windmills. If monthly output varies like this, what would it
look like for hourly output?
wind stat

Kit P
September 27, 2008 6:08 am

@The Engineer
Most Americans are pro renewable energy, pro nuclear, and pro coal.
There are some very vocal Americans that are anti nuke,anti coal, anti wind or anti whatever. Sometimes for good reasons but mostly out of ignorance.
I am an engineer in the electricity generating industry. I am pro having an adequate energy supply. I have supported building windmills in dry land wheat fields. However, the basic problem with wind and solar is not a very good way to make electricity. Think of wind and solar as a modern metal art form.
Since ‘The Engineer’ is from Denmark, maybe he can explain why Denmark has stopped building wind.

September 27, 2008 6:42 am

a couple of things: (1) more than several wind farms have no transmission connection to the grid. Bringing wind online isn’t just a matter of getting them sited, there are no existing transmission right-of-winds to connect them. Opposition to land seizure for transmission is a tremendous national problem. 85% of wind generation proposals in the planning queue’s in regional transmission operators nationwide, have no transmission plan. Perception that wind is going to supply 20% of capacity in our national electric consumption by 2025 is perception, the reality is far from that. But wind’s priority is behind another transmission priority. Upgrading the existing grid with additional high-voltage transmission is reliability issue and is seriously lagging because of this opposition. Proponents of land-rights and environmental reasons are highly mobilized. In the end, all of it will get done, as the opposition is merely doubling the processing time and overall costs.
(2) there is a generation of wind turbine blades out there, which were constructed with faulty engineering standards. The carbine blade material somehow wasn’t designed properly. Also many of the 1st generation turbines that have been produces over that last 5-7 years, are have poor operating reliability. There’s a few Indian companies involved and its primarily due to the rush of turbine orders which overwhelmed the industry’s proven leaders. Hence the market opened up for newer and less proven producers to gain a footing in the market. The rush to “go green” by countries and states RPS initiatives created the need. Going forward, we’ll see those problems abate and existing problem turbines replaced.
(3) the intermittency of renewable power without a more intelligent grid, is a headwind towards their effective built-out. Like transmission an intelligent “SmartGrid” is required and will take a decade or two to be completed. With a more intelligent grid, the intermittency of renewables like wind can be smoothed with digitally automated system controls, utilizing gas-fired backup and demand response capacity. This is why T. Boone Pickens plan to take gas generated electricity and moving it to the transportation sector and replace it with wind, is complete bonk. If you have noticed, Chesepeake Energy’s CEO new television commercial acknowledges Boone’s notion of greater natural gas, but only in the transportation sector, not in eliminating it from our grid generation capacity. In fact, gas-generated electricity will expand from its current ~20% of all national capacity to 25-30% by 2030.
But the greater point on the topic of energy, is that EVERYTHING needs to be on the table – renewables, fossil, nuclear, smart grid, efficiencies & conservation, R&D. The gov’t can point the way with incentives but a fed gov’t Apollo project is not a viable market solution here. It is vital to understand the energy challenges and with that understanding, it is clear that expanding domestic oil production, wherever it is, is an absolute necessity to get the nation from where we are today, to the year 2030. The left just heard it from Obama last night. Perhaps by the year 2030, we can honestly say the U.S. can cease “expanding” her petroleum production capacities. But until that time, the bridge today to an cleaner energy consuming economy requires oil and coal w/o question.

September 27, 2008 6:57 am

Haken- So the Swedish wind farms are showing an 11.7% availability? That’s pretty bad.

Kit P
September 27, 2008 8:04 am

By 2030, less than 10-15% of electricity generation in the US will be from natural gas. This prediction assumes that the nuke plants with COL application under review get built. Natural gas fired plants provide cheap reserve capacity. As we use less natural gas, the price of natural will decrease.
As floodguy suggests, the share of wind will be small and difficult to predict. Reliability and maintenance costs of 10 year old wind turbines is not known. I would further predict a trend that state RPS qualify nukes as renewable energy. A running nuke reduces ghg from a natural gas fired plants much better than a broken windmill.

September 27, 2008 9:07 am

Karl Heuer- I agree with your calculations on solar PV that you posted above. The 6 hours sun/day is for the best solar resources region in the US. Here in sunny Florida, the number is closer to 5 kWhr/m^2/day. The Northeast and Northwest are considerably lower.
Anyways, the issue with solar PV has always been cost. Panel prices this week average $4.85/W(peak) in the US. An installed system runs $8 – $9/Watt(peak). Unless you charge extortion rates for electricity and shower consumers with rebates (sounds like this is the situation in CA), solar PV doesn’t pay.

Ron McCarley
September 27, 2008 9:36 am

Response to Smokey 19:11:26
I served on a nuclear submarine (USS James K. Polk, SSBN 645) for 3 years in the 1960’s, and I don’t glow in the dark. In fact, a person outside in the sun gets far more radiation than a person gets on a nuclear sub. I wore a radiation badge that was monitored monthly for possible exposure, and I never recorded any. Once in a while, I would even go into the reactor room and look through the lead glass at the reactor. In my humble opinion, if this country doesn’t go more nuclear soon, we are going to suffer mightily. People will feel differently when the blackouts and brownouts begin, due to lack of real, consistent generation capability.

September 27, 2008 9:56 am

floodguy (06:42:23) :

Opposition to land seizure for transmission is a tremendous national problem.

Us pesky Libertarians consider the Supreme Court’s support of Eminent Domain a tremendous national problem. (Actually, their decision let the states’ law have sway, but a lot of states didn’t have very strong laws.) Here in NH, people proposed seizing Justice Souter’s property for economic development, i.e. to build the “Lost Liberty Hotel” and its restaurant “Just Desserts”.

September 27, 2008 10:21 am

@ron – nuclear
Two important aspects to nuclear are cost/payback and social abuse.
The investments in nuclear plants have been highly manipulated debt games in banks and did not payback the investment reasonably.
The social abuse is concentrating control over energy in a pyramid which can then be used to hold a population hostage.
Power sources that can be built in various sizes by the population, business, industry, and investors spread control widely,
with legislation that gives all power producers the automatic right to sell into the grid.
Spreading involvement stabilizes the market, preventing abuse- holding entire regions or nations hostage with energy.
Anything but nuclear, because of the huge investment and potential for financial abuse, is better to develop.

Karl Heuer
September 27, 2008 11:19 am

Something some of you may not have thought of when considering home solar/wind payback.
current price of gasoline is $4/gal that equals $.1190/KWh (33.6KWh/gal gasoline)
But — electric vehicles are (at least) 3 times as efficient as Internal Combustion vehicles — most IC engines are less tha 30% efficient even a crap electric motor is better than 90%
So for every KWh you use to charge your vehicles, you are effectively getting
36 cents/KWh at todays cost of gas
If we analyzed it on a per panel basis
Evergreen solar 195W panel @ $8/W Installed that = $1560
@1.49m^2 * 5KWh incident/day* 12% conversion efficiency = .9KWh/day
= $328/year
Payback break even in less than 5 years assuming gas does not increase.
This does not count any subsidies or tax credits, it even excludes the mortgage interest deduction if you took out a loan to improve the home.

September 27, 2008 1:25 pm

You folks are using rational logic and math to discuss alternative energy… wrong venue.
Wind mills,Priuses and solar panels are about religion, not economics and as such are immune to logic.
They are the totems of the new green god of Gaia.
And the green gods and their self-chosen priests (e.g. saint Gore) will tolerate no other beliefs before them.
Greens are unswayed by reality and instead bound by the dogma of their false god.
We could be seeing the end of the age of reason and the emergence of a new dark age driven by dogma… this time, literally dark.

September 27, 2008 4:00 pm

One of the more interesting ‘success’ indicators for wind energy here in the UK is that, unlike Sweden it seems, the information about real generated output is not, so far as I know, readily available. Indeed one might say it is deeply buried. Last time I tried to find it I had to attempt to extract things from the ROC (Renewables Obligation Certificates) records and that was neither simple nor especially useful.
I admit that I am reading between the lines BUT I would have expected success to be shouted from the rooftops incessantly …
As I recall the large off-shore windfarm in the Irish Sea off the coast of Wales (jointly developed by a large German power company and Greenpeace and sold on to a Middle Eastern investment group within 2 years I seem to remember) was one of the more successful installations some 18 months to 2 years after commissioning and was in some months claiming ROC credits at a rate suggesting around 34% of plated capacity rating being delivered. But most months seemed to be less than that. It has now been in place for about 4 years so I guess maintenance must be kicking in. Time to re-check perhaps.
Meantime you might find some of the pages here of interest
especially this one if anyone is considering erecting their own power generation device.

September 27, 2008 6:52 pm

Karl H:
“This does not count any subsidies or tax credits…”
So the gov’t takes our taxes, runs them through an expensive bureaucracy, then rebates what’s left as tax credits to windmill operators — while the average taxpayer pays for it all.
There’s a word for this: “scam”.
If windmills are so great, they should be able to stand on their own, without any tax advantage. Explain why windmills need a tax credit, as they sit 90% idle in the windy Altamont Pass.

Karl Heuer
September 27, 2008 9:00 pm

Altamont turbines get no subsidy, they are over 25 years old — many don’t even have an owner because the companies that originally erected them in the 1970’s no longer exist.
You could search on “paul Gipe” he has a website detailing the derelict turbines in tehachapi and altamont
You still have not addressed the solar for electric vehicles and how quickly that pays back

September 27, 2008 9:13 pm

Hey, I’m wildly in favor of whatever works, pays, requires no subsidy or coercive legislation.
And abides by the morals laws, I suppose . . .
(But it has to do all that first.)
I’d venture to guess that the vast majority present feel that way.

Jeff Alberts
September 27, 2008 9:26 pm

If windmills are so great, they should be able to stand on their own, without any tax advantage. Explain why windmills need a tax credit, as they sit 90% idle in the windy Altamont Pass.

Oil companies don’t need tax credits either, but they still get them.

September 28, 2008 4:01 am

“Oil companies don’t need tax credits either, but they still get them.”
But oil companies work — unlike most of the Altamont windmills. And a tax deduction is a lot different than a tax credit. Oil companies get routine tax deductions, not credits.

Karl Heuer
September 28, 2008 9:18 am

Jeff A.-
If Nuclear is so viable, why hasn’t the nuclar industry built more plants
WITH all the subsidies they get like:
Loan Guarantees
Subsidized Industry Insurance and Liability limitations specific to the Nuclear Industry
49% of the Federal energy R&D Budget over the last 50 years
Cost of waste treatment and storage covered by Non-Proliferation $
Cost of Fuel Enrichment subsidized because until 1993 DOE produced all enriched fuel, and after 1993 USEC a government corporation (taxpayer funded) enriches all fuel
Argonne Labs – again the taxpayers – separated spent fuel
And then there is the giant handout of Yucca Mountain:
The turbine that caught fire in the photo — the utility has to bear the costs of waste disposal and storage
In the chemical industry there is cradle to grave
For the nuclear industry, THE US GOVT is footing the bill for disposal and storage, and has been for decades
Subsidies and direct government spending (loan guarantees, liability limits, tax credits, R&D, fuel production, waste storage, etc.) for the nuclear industry dwarf any subsidies for renewables

Bruce Cobb
September 28, 2008 10:04 am

Excellent program this morning on PBS: Scotching the Wind
Wind power can certainly have its drawbacks. Some 100 miles of access roads would have needed to have been built, destroying much of the peat land, and the locals’ way of life.
The rationale for the wind farm, “carbon reduction” is of course completely bogus.

Sam the Skeptic
September 28, 2008 11:12 am

Travelling through northern France last week we saw a small windfarm with the blades turning a way that can most politely be described as “desultory”! Each unit had a flashing light on top, presumably to warn aircraft.
We got to thinking, maybe at that speed all they were doing was generating enough energy to power their little lights.

September 28, 2008 12:49 pm

There are a few Wind Farms which have real-time streaming webcams which are publicly accessible. There is also one pay-for-view wind farm webcam but I will not facilitate the gullible being separated from their money. I was frankly surprised at how small the number webcams actually are but given how little movement can be observed at some wind turbines, perhaps the lack of webcams is not that surprising. There is also some still frame webcams which may or may not be updated regularly, which I did not document here.
Here is New Jersey’s first and I hope last wind farm.
Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm
The two turbines on the left and bottom in above photograph are the ones seen in the following webcam which is looking east towards Atlantic City.
Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm Webcam
Google Earth: Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm (39.3819°, -74.4481°)
You can check wind speeds here.
The turbines are not always in operation, even when there is wind. When there not much activity at the wind farm, the nighttime light show at Atlantic City is worth the viewing. I wonder what the carbon footprint is for just the light show? Someone forgot to set the webcam clock, it must be a Jersey thing.
The City of Bowling Green, Ohio Wind Farm
Bowling Green, Ohio Wind Farm Turbins
Bowling Green, Ohio Wind Farm Webcam
You can check wind speeds here.
Google Earth: Route 6W and Tontogany Rd., Bowling Green, OH (41.377°, -83.7376°)
The four turbines are just north of the intersection along Tontogany Rd. and south of W. Poe Rd. The webcam clock is accurate and all four turbans appear to be in constant operation even at low wind speeds. The webcam goes through a series of programmed pans and zooms which repeats every 7 minutes.
Here is the Zephyr Corporate website in Japan which links to may locations with their wind turbines around the world. Some of the webcams, when they are working, allow you to take remote control of the camera, which is a lot of fun.
Zephyr Corporate Wind Turbine Webcams with Real-time remote control.
Using Google Earth I looked at the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm and the Altamont Pass Wind Farm; I was frankly surprised at the amount of environmental damage which can be observed from an arrival view of both locations. If these had been an oil field or logging operation we would be hearing about it. To see the full impact, zoom out from the following points.
Google Earth: Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm (35.0476°, -118.266°)
Google Earth: Altamont Pass Wind Farm (37.7324°, -121.652°)
I did a search for any webcams at either California wind farm location and was unable to locate any. If anyone has a real-time streaming webcam at either location please post the information.
The good people of California should demand that all wind farms have webcams so that they can see Mother Earth is being saved in real-time. If there are any public spirited citizens with a view of either wind farm and a high speed Internet access, consider setting up a public webcam. For additional information see these Wikipedia pages.

September 28, 2008 1:29 pm

Karl- In response to your interesting posting on powering your electric vehicle using a home-based solar PV system-
Here is my comparison of cost-of-ownership for two solar PV powered EV’s and two gasoline powered ICE’s. The assumptions are generous to the solar PV electric solution.
Assumptions include-
-need a vehicle
-require local transportation, no restrictions on cargo, towing, seating, style, flair…
-all electric power for the EV is provided by the solar PV system at home (no fill-ups at work, no long trips).
-10 year vehicle life.
-solar PV with battery backup to provide recharge any time of day or night.
-solar PV array sized to meet daily energy needs of vehicle, in location with 5 hours/day sun (Florida), at $8.85/W(p) installed.
-$22,500 rebate on solar PV system (Florida).
-EVs are the $109K Tesla roadster and the $40K Chevy volt (both ‘almost ready’).
-Gasoline vehicles are the $14K Honda Civic and $30K Ford Flex.
-All payments are from cash on-hand, no financing charges, no lost opportunity penalty
-40 miles/day, every day, approx 15,000 miles/year
-2% maintenance on ICE’s, Volt, 1% on Tesla
-Chevy Volt runs on solar PV electricity only, no gasoline used
-EV batteries need replacing at 5 years at $10K(Tesla) or $5K(Volt)
-$4/gallon for gasoline
-trade-in value of zero
‘Fuel’ Energy used over 10 year life-
Tesla Roadster- 46,731 kWhr
Chevy volt- 57,726 kWhr
Honda Civic- 122,668 kWhr
Ford Flex- 223,033 kWhr
The total ownership cost for each option, including energy costs to run the vehicles-
Tesla Roadster- $155K
Chevy volt- $84.3K
Honda Civic- $34.2K
Ford Flex- $68.5K
To have the Honda Civic cost the same as the Tesla Roadster would require gas prices to average $37/gallon.
The Flex and the Volt are pretty close, which is encouraging.
This works a little better in the Southwest, and a lot worse in the Northeast or Northwest.
The solar PV idea looks good to me once we have access to less expensive all-electric vehicles.
I was surprised that the plug-in Prius is pricier than the Volt. With an additional battery pack (which voids the warranty) the Prius plug-in is about $60K, and gets about 30 miles of all-electric range.
Note that if you do not use all of the PV output each day, the price per kWhr goes up. You can add more battery storage to the solar PV system to collect more than one day’s worth of energy, but the price per kWhr goes up.

Karl Heuer
September 28, 2008 3:57 pm

thank you for the interest in the viewpoint I brought up
let me add a few comments
1. compare the tesla to a comparable IC car like an Acura NSX, Porche 911, etc. It does go 0-60 in 4 seconds after-all
2. The new battery packs are long-life Lithium Ion — They are good for 2000+ discharge-recharge cycles , my Samsung L-ion cell phone battery is over 4 years old, and has been recharged on average 1.5 times a day thats over 2000 charges, and it still lasts 90% of the initial talk time
That corresponds to 7 years at daily recharges

September 28, 2008 7:18 pm

Here are some other cars compared with the Tesla solar PV solution.
(reference) Tesla Roadster (105 mpg, $109K, top speed 125 mph) gives $155,054.
Porsche 911 (20 mpg, $92K, top speed 177 mph) gives $157,920.
Chevy Corvette 2008 (22 mpg, $46K, top speed >175 mph) gives $90,873.
Honda S2000 convertible (22 mpg, $35K, top speed 175 mph) gives $75,473.
So there are lots of choices.
How about a Tata Nano (50 mpg, $2150, top speed ??) at $10,775?
I was comparing the costs based on what can be purchased within the next year, without regard for driving performance other than having as large an EV range as possible. If someone has other suggestions for EV’s, let me know and I’ll post the results. Golf carts don’t count.
Extrapolating cell phone battery performance to vehicle battery performance is not realistic. The auto environment is much more punishing on batteries, because of peak load swings, temperature extremes and vibration.

Don Shaw
September 28, 2008 7:18 pm

Karl Heuer, some comments on your (11:19:23) :
“current price of gasoline is $4/gal that equals $.1190/KWh (33.6KWh/gal gasoline)”
I’m an old engineer so you may have different conversion factors, but my references indicate that there are 36.6KWH/gal of gasoline. If so your energy content is low by 9% by my calculations which use 125,000 btu/gal of gas and a conversion of 1 watt=3.413 BTU/hr. I know that ruining gasoline with 10% ethanol reduces the energy value but not 9%.
Your comparison is misleading since the $4/gal is currently too high ($3.27 currently here in NJ.) Another 15% error in assumptions, recognizing that this could go up or down. Keep in mind that the current oil price is artifically high due to OPEC and Democrats restricting supply. There is plenty of oil resources in the US that would significantly reduce cost if we allowed development. Price will come down significantly if we allow untilization of all our resources including shale, oil drilling in ANWR and offshore.
Another point, The pump price of gasoline includes all costs delivered to your auto including federal and State motor fuel costs, maintenance, taxes etc. Your calculations include none of the costs to deliver electricity to the house. My electric bill includes a delivery charge. My house sees no sun in the summer and I save a bundle of $$$ on cooling costs.
Also, of the $4/gal, 40 cents/gallon is a typical road tax cost depending on the state. Another 10% error unless you think electric cars should not pay for roads/maintenance, etc. Also keep in mind that the pump price includes huge tax payments to the Feds states, etc. One large oil Company alone paid over $100 Million in taxes (including foreign) in 2007. Where would this revenue to the governments come from with your scenario? And of course if we developed resources here in the US the foreign taxes would be paid to the USA instead. Not to mention jobs!!
I do not have first hand information to verify your estinated solar panel costs but given the above noted omissions, I would not invest one penny in Solar energy. However there are some obvious holes in your assumptions; e.g.: what if I go away for a month and don’t use the car, or what if I take a trip with your eletric car for more than 40 mile range? Also, I recently heard lobbyest from the solar and windmill community testify in congress under oath that if Congress do not continue the subsidies they would go out of business. Were they Lying? Also I remember that California several years ago mandated a certain % of electric cars. This mandate was eliminated when common sense prevaled.
Finally I believe the best way to decide which is the best energy source is to let the market decide, not Congress, not local politicians, not greenies. Subsidies are corrupting Washington. Once politicians are involved we are bound to make the wrong choice. Just look at Ethanol from corn.

Karl Heuer
September 28, 2008 8:15 pm

Something I think you may find interesting is how much the KWh/m^2/day can increase with 2 axis tracking
Tampa, FL 6.9
Commercially available residential panels have reached or are approaching 15% conversion efficiencies for multicrystalline Silicon, and are also approaching $5/Watt Installed with owner sweat equity
The following 8 KW system is available for $45.4K = $5.68/Watt
AT an effective solar insolation of 7KWh/m^2/day and 15% efficiency, you get 1.05 KWH/m^2/day output
For fleet vehicles using diesel @ 25 mpg ($5/gal) and using the same 11.2 Kwh/gal and for electric efficiency conversion — for vehicles driving 30,000/50,000 miles/yr
10 year diesel cost = $60,000/100,000
Solar installation cost @ $7/Watt to provide 51.69/86.15KWH/day ( assuming panels providing 195W/1.5m^2= 33panels/55 panels @ 1365/panel installed
= $45,000/$75,000
This allows for a 15K/25K purchase premium per EV, and after 10 years, the “fuel” is free — current panels have an expected service life of at least 25 years.
You can see how quickly the solar PV system pays for itself
BTW if it is for a business, you get to depreciate the PV equipment — like any other business equipment

September 28, 2008 8:28 pm

I think I would rather have a wind mill in my backyard than a nuclear power plant:)

Mike Bryant
September 28, 2008 9:11 pm

Me too, at least until the first really, really cold snap… 🙂

September 28, 2008 11:05 pm

Don- You bring up lots of important issues. As soon as solar PV recharging an EV becomes cost-effective, the gov’t will be trolling for a piece of the action. My guess is it will appear on the sticker price for the EV.
Anthony- Thanks for the link on the EV. I’ll check back on October 15 when they say pricing will be posted. They claim 0.1 kWh/km, which is a factor of two lower than the Tesla Roadster, and a range of 50 miles, on par with the Volt.
The solar PV system you link is grid-tied and does not include batteries. You either need to have net metering available with your utility, or you need batteries. You can’t assume the vehicle can be plugged in for the entire daylight period.
The $5.86/W does not include installation costs by a contractor. In Florida, you are not eligible for the solar rebate unless the installation is performed by a certified contractor. This adds about $3/W – $4/W to the solar installation.
Tracking mounts (single or dual axis) add somewhat to the captured insolation, but the price also goes up. I don’t have numbers handy, but read one article a few years ago that concluded it wasn’t worth the extra cost and increased maintenance problems.
Solar panels slowly degrade. 25 year warranties are usually based on some % of original output. Also, output degrades as ambient temperature goes up, like on a hot rooftop during a sunny day next to a Stevenson screen! There are also losses associated with matching the solar panel optimum operating point to the load, losses in battery charge/discharge, conductor I2R losses, inverter/converter losses, etc. Those details can add up to only 80% available energy compared with panel rating.
Here is my version of your calculation for Florida-
For fleet vehicles using diesel @ 25 mpg ($4/gal, less than $ for fleet contracts) and using the same 11.2 Kwh/gal including electric efficiency conversion —
for vehicles driving 30,000 miles/yr = 82.2 miles/day = 3.29 gal/day
Annual diesel cost = $4,800
Solar installation cost @ $9/Watt (peak) (grid-tied, net metering, fixed-angle) to provide 11.2*3.29 = 36.8 KWH/day ( assuming panels providing 195Wpeak, 80% system efficiency and 5 hours/day sun) = 47 panels
(Approx. 9kW of panels).
At 195*$9=$1,755/panel, that’s $82,485. Less $22,500 rebate = $59,985.
Or install yourself for 195*$6 = $1170/panel, or $55,000, no rebate. A bit less if your time is free.
Borrow cash to purchase solar installation, 7%, 10 years, $60,000 (need contractor install to get loan) gives payments of $697/month = $83,640 total.
That provides 23 years of fuel (including reduced efficiency over 25 year life).
This gives $3636/year for solar fuel.
Compare with $4800/year for diesel fuel.
During 10 year life of first vehicle, solar fuel is $8364/yr vs $4800/yr for diesel. Not so good.
With a 25 year loan, solar fuel is $5,088/yr vs $4800/yr for diesel.
Not sure where to go from here. Diesel, solar array, loan payments are all deductible.
The bottom line will be to find an EV that is comparable in price to a diesel vehicle that provides the same performance for the task to be completed.

September 29, 2008 8:08 am

**** Alan B says: As someone mentioned, going all nuke is not a good idea because of its inability to load follow. ****
That’s a myth, even among power-plant engineers. Modern nukes can follow load quite well, especially w/boron-moderated feedwater on top of fuel-rod movement. The reason they aren’t typically load-following (they’re simply run at full load) is economics — they’re by far the cheapest plants to run. Fossil plants are more expensive to operate, so they are set to load-following. If generation were mostly nuke, it would prb’ly need some refinement of load-matching techiques & instrumentation for US nukes, but France seems to do just fine.

Karl Heuer
September 29, 2008 9:53 am

US DOE says LHV for gasoline is 115,000 BTU/gal (121MJ) 33.6 KWh
adding ethanol(10%) reduces energy content to 96.7% of normal based on 107.5% energy content in 111.% of volume per the link below
ethanol gasoline mix (10%) would only provide 32.5KWh
Sun Electronics in Florida:
$3.48/Watt for the panels

September 29, 2008 5:09 pm

Pardon me for butting in from this side of the pond, but Ive been doing some sums on a scrap of paper. Here in the UK we have something over 30 million cars licensed. Each does say 12,000 mile a year, which at an average speed of 40 miles an hour means 300 hours chugging around – and assuming 40 miles per gallon, then that’s a gallon an hour, or 35 kw hrs (see Don’s post above), multiplied by 300 per car.
That comes out to be an annual power consumption of 315 Tera-watt hours, which is quite a big chunk of the UK total (394 Tera-watt hours). So to move over to electric cars, we are going to have to nearly double our generating capacity.
Oh, and that not including all the HGV’s. And there’s a few of them, too.
I can’t see it happening, personally.

September 29, 2008 7:53 pm

“I think I would rather have a wind mill in my backyard than a nuclear power plant.”
Oh, really? Then you need to talk to these folks: click

Don Shaw
September 30, 2008 4:22 am

The Wisconsin Energy Statics is one of the many sources that indicates the energy value for gasoline is 125,000 BTU/gal. With 10% ethanol the value lowers to 120,900 BTU/gal. I can’t expain how the DOE value is less although it may have to do with lower vs higher heating value. Also note that the energy value of diesel is 138,690 BTU/gal so your numbers for the diesel are also off.
Average Energy Content of Various Fuels
1 kilowatt-hour of electricity … 3,413 Btu
1 cubic foot of natural gas … 1,008 to 1,034 Btu
1 therm of natural gas … 100,000 Btu
1 gallon of liquefied petroleum gas(LPG) … 95,475 Btu
1 gallon of crude oil … 138,095 Btu
1 barrel of crude oil … 5,800,000 Btu
1 gallon of kerosene or light distillate oil … 135,000 Btu
1 gallon middle distillate or diesel fuel oil … 138,690 Btu
1 gallon residential fuel oil … 149,690 Btu
1 gallon of gasoline … 125,000 Btu
1 gallon of ethanol … 84,400 Btu
1 gallon of methanol … 62,800 Btu
1 gallon gasohol
(10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) … 120,900 Btu
1 pound of coal … 8,100-13,000 Btu
1 ton of coal … 16,200,00-26,000,000 Btu
1 ton of coke … 26,000,000 Btu
1 ton of wood … 9,000,00-17,000,000 Btu
1 standard cord of wood … 18,000,000-24,000,000 Btu
1 face cord of wood … 6,000,000-8,000,000 Btu
1 pound low pressure steam
(recoverable heat) … 1,000 Btu

Don Shaw
September 30, 2008 4:33 am

The following site clarifies the high vs lower heating values for gasoline and this does explain the difference indicated above. Note that the assumed efficiency for the gasoline engine already includes the effect of lower vs. higher heating value, so your economic numbers should be based on higher heating value.

September 30, 2008 9:30 am

Karl, Don-
Don is right about the energy content for gasoline. I used Karl’s number without checking. Regular has 36.4 – 36.6 kWh/gal, and premium is 41.3 kWh/gal.
That changes my spreadsheet numbers a bit (but not much, because EV’s are pricey).
Updated 10 year costs for EV w/solar PV in sunny climate, and ICE’s, in decreasing order-
Tesla EV- $162K
Porsche 911- $158K
Chevy Volt EV- $94K
Chevy Corvette- $91K
Honda S2000- $76K
Ford Flex- $69K
Zev2Go (tiny EV)- $41K
VW Polo- $37K
Honda Civic- $34K
Toyota Yaris- $33K
Smart 4 Two (tiny)- $32K

Jeff Alberts
September 30, 2008 11:58 am

“I think I would rather have a wind mill in my backyard than a nuclear power plant.”
Oh, really? Then you need to talk to these folks: click

Actually I could sleep with that. I use a fan every night for the white noise, have for years, since I worked nights. It helps block little noises that would normally keep me awake. But I certainly wouldn’t want to listen to it all day. People usually move out to the country to get away from the noise.

Karl Heuer
September 30, 2008 12:07 pm

Don and Paminator- You are correct as to the HHV numbers for gasoline, but are incorrect in applying the HHV to IC engines.
I am correct to use the LHV for gasoline because the application is an IC engine. In internal combustion engines, the water of combustion is not condensed, it is exhausted and the thermal energy is therfore lost.
If gasoline was being used in some putative system, where the downstream water of combustion could be condensed (therefore recovering the heat) it would be valid to use the HHV.

September 30, 2008 1:14 pm

Karl- The HHV number is the energy available in the gasoline. How the vehicle uses (or doesn’t use) the energy supplied to it is rolled up into the actual vehicle energy needs per mile, for both ICE’s and EV’s.

Karl Heuer
September 30, 2008 2:09 pm

The HHV includes energy content that is not avaliable to do work — unless captured through condensation, and should therefore be excluded from the energy content identified as available to the car.
That is why the US Department of Energy used the LHV value in the link I provided.
I am right about this.
Lower Heating Value:
“The LHV assumes that the latent heat of vaporization of water in the fuel and the reaction products is not recovered. It is useful in comparing fuels where condensation of the combustion products is impractical …” (like in a car)
But — in the interest of settling on agreeable metrics for the continuation of this discussion, and any future discussions let us identify the cost per mile driven and then calculate economic break-points for both gasoline and ev

October 10, 2008 11:39 pm

The (17:50:11) is classic content spam.
Reply – Thanks… Zapped. – Dee Norris

December 2, 2008 8:53 am

[…] Wind turbines and neighborhoods just don’t mix It seems. Would you want one of these to do this when a wind storm comes your way? Wind power has it’s pluses and minuses, just like any […]

Nice vid
December 2, 2008 10:52 am

Found a great wind about the wind farms from UK: