"Ant colony optimisation" for wind farms

I’m not sure where this is going, but the first thing I thought of was this old sci-fi movie “Them“:

Via Eurekalert: Evolutionary lessons for wind farm efficiency

Evolution is providing the inspiration for University of Adelaide computer science research to find the best placement of turbines to increase wind farm productivity.

Senior Lecturer Dr Frank Neumann, from the School of Computer Science, is using a “selection of the fittest” step-by-step approach called “evolutionary algorithms” to optimise wind turbine placement. This takes into account wake effects, the minimum amount of land needed, wind factors and the complex aerodynamics of wind turbines.

“Renewable energy is playing an increasing role in the supply of energy worldwide and will help mitigate climate change,” says Dr Neumann. “To further increase the productivity of wind farms, we need to exploit methods that help to optimise their performance.”

Dr Neumann says the question of exactly where wind turbines should be placed to gain maximum efficiency is highly complex. “An evolutionary algorithm is a mathematical process where potential solutions keep being improved a step at a time until the optimum is reached,” he says.

“You can think of it like parents producing a number of offspring, each with differing characteristics,” he says. “As with evolution, each population or ‘set of solutions’ from a new generation should get better. These solutions can be evaluated in parallel to speed up the computation.”

Other biology-inspired algorithms to solve complex problems are based on ant colonies.

“Ant colony optimisation” uses the principle of ants finding the shortest way to a source of food from their nest.

“You can observe them in nature, they do it very efficiently communicating between each other using pheromone trails,” says Dr Neumann. “After a certain amount of time, they will have found the best route to the food – problem solved. We can also solve human problems using the same principles through computer algorithms.”

Dr Neumann has come to the University of Adelaide this year from Germany where he worked at the Max Planck Institute. He is working on wind turbine placement optimisation in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Current approaches to solving this placement optimisation can only deal with a small number of turbines,” Dr Neumann says. “We have demonstrated an accurate and efficient algorithm for as many as 1000 turbines.”

The researchers are now looking to fine-tune the algorithms even further using different models of wake effect and complex aerodynamic factors.

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100 thoughts on “"Ant colony optimisation" for wind farms

  1. I had a visual of people scurrying around, moving the windmills, every time the wind changed direction……….

  2. I think all of this very smart innovation is totally excellent.
    The really cool thing as that it can be applied to useful problem solving as well as this sort of thing.

  3. I propose that these wind turbines should be distributed so that one of each is sited on the residential property of every legislator who votes for their creation, every government officer of the executive branch who implements the enabling legislative acts and regulations, and every judge who rules in favor of their construction.
    Let’s turn “NIMBY” on its head. You want it done on the public dime, you pork-feeding bastiches?
    Okay, you live with the consequences.

  4. After much research it was discovered that the most cost efficient place for the wind turbines was at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

  5. Oh. You mean string them all over the ridge line of a mountain range. That was hard. And extraordinarily ugly. And extremely expensive to transmit. Costs a fortune for a technology that is archaic, inefficient, and relies upon cheap Chinese labor to make substandard turbines that consistently fail decades before useful expectancy or depreciation schedules.

  6. Where do they find these people?
    Almost makes you want to lose the will to live!

  7. While wind-driven electrical generation is not-ready-for-prime-time, I do think it is important to keep researching it for more optimal solutions. While it is unlikely to be able to replace fossil-fuel or nuclear driven plants, they can augment the electrical reserve.
    The real problem with wind power is the governments’ insistence on ramming an immature technology down citizens’ throats. That is a short sighted approach, and will do much to harm the public perception of the technology, which jeopardizes any future potential it may have.

  8. Well, I’m about a mile away from a University of Delaware wind turbine. Depending on the wind direction there is a very noticeable noise coming off of the blades (wake vortex I assume) . “Optimal” placement sounds good but depending on what you’re optimizing you can wind up with bad knock-on effects. For example I could see them creating an in phase situation that amplifies the noise or even starts shaking things apart if there is a resonant frequency.

  9. “Ant colony optimisation” uses the principle of ants finding the shortest way to a source of food from their nest.
    “You can observe them in nature, they do it very efficiently…”
    Huh? In the 12X60 pre-fab building (trailer) where I work I’ve tracked the buggers coming through the window six feet behind my desk, going up along the ceiling line, down over doorways and over electrical cords, the entire length of the room and back just to end up on my desk.
    Obviously the perfect model for placing windmills.

  10. So-called scientists are forever trying to justify their “research” by looking for fancy ways to explain the simple observation that the fit survive. How long will we endure endless speeches and models describing the tautology that the most fit survive because they produce the most offspring because they were the most fit! It’s all so useless, especially as applied to the futile pursuit getting energy from today’s windmills.

  11. Demonstrated capacity factors for windfarms tend to be in the 20 to 30 percent range. It is hard to visualize “opimization” by computer program doing much for the consumers and taxpayers at those levels but the subsidized “investors” may benefit. Don’t tell me who pays for this stuff…. let me guess!

  12. “Genetic programming” has been around for 20 years. Hardly novel. The results of using it on this problem are tied to the accuracy of their models of what the “genes” in the “organism” will produce. Given the track record of models of wind turbines, I am not hopeful that they will produce anything more than just another research grant request.

  13. Actually this kind of thing is done fairly regularly. 3D seismics interpretations use “Ant Tracking” algorhithims to look at the seismic signatures and use neuro-networks to map subsurface faults and other features

  14. Some context on the amount of innovation here: Genetic and evolutionary algorithms have been understood since the 1970s, and available in off the shelf commercial products since about 1990.

  15. Surely it must be possible to place a batch of diesel driven turbines in the optimum position to create sufficient wind to drive conventional wind turbines when the wind isn’t blowing. No complicated algorithm required.
    Problem solved. Sarc/

  16. There, I fixed it for you.
    Senior Lecturer Dr Frank Neumann, from the School of Computer Science, is using a “selection of the fittest” step-by-step approach called “evolutionary algorithms” to optimize the acquisition of grant money. Taking into account wake effects, the minimum amount of land needed, wind factors and the complex aerodynamics of wind turbines, the estimated monetary outlay should be phenomenal.
    “Renewable energy is playing an increasing role in the supply of energy worldwide and will help mitigate climate change,” says Dr Neumann. “To further increase the productivity of wind farms, we need to exploit” the gullible public in order to optimize the movement of cash.

  17. “Renewable energy is playing an increasing role in the supply of energy worldwide and will help mitigate climate change,” says Dr Neumann. “To further increase the productivity of wind farms, we need to exploit methods that help to optimise their performance.”
    We’ll be needing a miracle then.

  18. Just put an ant on the rim of an empty plant pot – and watch it go round and round and round and round, following its own pheromone trail.
    It will not get off that rim to join its colony, it cannot break off its own trail.
    Mindless, just like building more and more wind turbines …
    Yep – ants are a good model for optimising wind turbine placements. We’ve seen the results …

  19. If they considered the optimization of economic benefit for their country, the windmills would be positioned in (and funded by) neighboring countries.

  20. JamesS says:
    May 4, 2011 at 9:24 am
    “Optimizing the locations of the deck chairs on the Titanic.”…”…using pheromone trails…”
    It could work!

  21. Over on Climate etc. there is a lively discussion about ‘Black Swans’ and Dragon Kings.
    The concept of “black swan” comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb…The term “black swan” comes from the mistaken assumption that all swans are white. In this context a “black swan” is a metaphor for something that cannot exist.
    Didier Sornette has given a rather precise definition for what he calls a dragon-king:
    Dragon Kings are defined quite closely as being the variability associated with chaotic bifurcation.

    My comment:
    One has to wonder what these scientists smoked in their student days.

  22. Because of efficiency losses, the value of the energy taken from the wind will always be less than the value of the energy left in the wind. The tort visited upon those downwind from windmill operators cannot be cured.
    ==============

  23. It will no doubt give some improvement within its limited scope, but it’s still just gilding a turd.

  24. From a purely theoretical point of view, I find this fascinating. I would love to work on this type of problem (though what I am working on right now is kinda cool 🙂 ).
    From a practical real world point of view, I am sure this is silly. A lot of work to eek out a minor increase in the cost effectiveness of a system that will never be as cost effective as a coal-fire or NG plant.

  25. I’m keeping an open mind about wind farms, actually. Individual small turbines (like the small one that the City of Aurora, IL built around the corner from my home, to power one set of traffic lights) are pretty stupid. However, properly placed, large-scale farms may not be that objectionable.
    I recently toured the Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana with a bunch of electrical engineers, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meadow_Lake_Wind_Farm
    I was quite impressed with the level of control the operators have over the turbines, which are remotely operated from a center in Texas using SCADA (if they did anything with water, I’d sue for patent infringement). Turbine blades are feathered to optimized energy output and match this output with demand. Also, the farmland beneath the turbines was nearly all usable, and they didn’t look nearly as ugly as other installations I’ve seen. I didn’t see any dead birds/bats, not that there weren’t any.
    However…in IN, wind energy is least when the power is needed most (dog-days of summer), there is no storage mechanism for excess production, and the farm operator is fined if they provide electricity into the grid when it is not needed, so turbines will sit in “off” mode on some windy days since the power is not needed. A waste of assets.
    At least we don’t have to import wind from the Persian Gulf or Venezuela! There are many problems to overcome with this technology, but I was impressed with their approach and wouldn’t mind seeing further refinement of the technology. We will need every extra electron that we can muster, and wind energy is but one small piece of the puzzle. It may not replace nuclear/coal/gas, but there is a fit for this stuff in some instances.

  26. more like he is optimizing his seat on the Eco Gravy Train and trying to keep the gig going until he qualifies for a cushy taxpayer funded pension.

  27. “While wind-driven electrical generation is not-ready-for-prime-time,”
    Wind power was mostly abandoned as soon as anything better came along, for good reason. Generating electricity from a widmill is no different thwn pumping water or running a mill, just a different mechanical process.
    “they can augment the electrical reserve.”
    No, they can’t, because they are not on demand sources. In fact they require reserve power be built just to back them up. The gas generators that are required to augment the windmills are the reserve.

  28. This reminds me somewhat of the final years of steam locomotive development (whether coal- or oil-fired). There was always another “unexplored avenue” round the corner which would radically change the fundamental inefficiency – pre-heated water, condensers, economisers, uni-flow cylinders, turbine drives, etc – they each amounted to almost nothing, thermal efficiency rarely exceeding 12%, and then only intermittently. They were all dead-end avenues and the net result was that burning oil internally in smaller cylinders, or using coal-by-wire from power stations, delayed real improvements in efficiency by a decade or so (depending on which country you’re in). At least the loco designers didn’t use public funds derived from fraudulent taxation to contrive those delays.

  29. Vuk etc. says:
    “… In this context a “black swan” is a metaphor for something that cannot exist…”
    Tell that to Cygnus Atratus.
    (yes, I know that Taleb pointed that out in his book, but it’s still pretty cool)

  30. Now I know what I need to finally get my perpetual motion machine to work! All that is missing is the right magic algorithm. Why didn’t I think of that?

  31. “Dr Neumann has come to the University of Adelaide this year from Germany where he worked at the Max Planck Institute.”
    So the Germans have managed to export another of their Max Planck Institute nutters.
    Poor Aussies. They’d have been better taking someone who is good at cricket.

  32. Pedestrian concerns like cost and leasing don’t enter into this? I’m pretty sure that no one wants to ‘learn’ with their money…..they would rather get it right from the outset.
    Now …….learning from someone ELSE’S money might be a little easier….

  33. That is great but it is still being used to spend billions on a fraud. Science should be put to better use and so should hard earned tax dollars and so should representation by politicians.

  34. ““Genetic programming” has been around for 20 years. Hardly novel. The results of using it on this problem are tied to the accuracy of their models of what the “genes” in the “organism” will produce. ”
    EXaCTLY RIGHT.
    This is very powerful technique where you can optimize complex multivariate problems that have multiple “correct” but “less perfect” solutions that would trap normal optimization algorithms. (There are add-ins to Excel that will allow you run it on your desktop. It’s very cool. I’ve used the technique on Financial math and production problems and been impressed.)
    BUT it’s only as good as your modeling knowledge and control of your “universe”, and since I’m constantly seeing stories about turbines failing because of “unexpected” turbulence from -ground, other turbines, the atmosphere, etc… and all the other problem “issues” with wind turbines, I have to admit to a high degree of skepticism that the results of this are any better than human’s experience and good eye.
    Assuming you even want want one those economically disastrous money pits at all, which is a really big IF. Optimizing to minimize the massive disaster that they are seems a lot more trouble than NOT DOING IT AT ALL and avoiding the problem altogether.
    This reminds me of the hydrogen based dirigible crowd saying we can make it much safer than the Hindenburg! And everyone answering “WHO CARES?” we don’t need it at all. (Or at least where it’s needed there are other MUCH SAFER solutions.)

  35. ““To further increase the productivity of wind farms, we need to exploit methods that help to optimise their performance.”
    I’m not sure that any very complicated algorithm is needed to optimise BigWind’s performance in the only thing that they are good for.
    The obvious solution is to check out the level of subsidy available. I’d be surprised if Australia could compete with the UK in that respect and at least SOME of their politicians have woken up and smelt the BS.
    My guess is that British subsidies are amongst the most generous (=most ludicrous) in the world.

  36. “Thousands of engineers can design bridges, calculate strains and stresses, and draw up specifications for machines, but the great engineer is the man who can tell whether the bridge should be built at all, where it should be built, and when.” – Eugene G. Grace

  37. My grandmother had an expression for such exercises in futility: “lining up the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

  38. ShrNfr says:
    May 4, 2011 at 10:04 am
    ““Genetic programming” has been around for 20 years. Hardly novel. The results of using it on this problem are tied to the accuracy of their models of what the “genes” in the “organism” will produce. Given the track record of models of wind turbines, I am not hopeful that they will produce anything more than just another research grant request.”
    He’s using a Genetic Algorithm, not Genetic Programming – Genetic Programming means that you evolve a program (this is usually very hard); a specialized Genetic Algorithm (in this case one that places wind turbines) is easier to do. And it’s a standard optimization technique. Every now and then a Wired or Technology Review writer gets all excited about it but it’s run of the mill these days.
    The fitness function probably just runs simulations of the wake effects of the turbines. And it will result in a marginal improvement of the turbine placement. To run the supercomputer that runs the GA they probably only need the output of 5,000 turbines plus one coal fired power station for the moments the wind doesn’t blow…

  39. @kim: Fascinating! It’s certainly a private remedy tort under UK law for an upstream landowner (astride a natural watercourse) to deprive a downstream owner of reasonable flow, but this doesn’t actually apply to man-made watercourses which need a specific agreement.
    Can this therefore apply to (man-made) bat-choppers – surely it’s more of a claim in nuisance if the peturbations in wind, or the noise or stream of bat remains becomes excessive. (Of course if it just topples onto your land you have a trespass remedy.)

  40. Ron Dean
    Unfortunately the one thing wind power can never provide is generating reserve, despite the best attempts of modellers to come up with diversity factors. UK December peaks showed that all too clearly – where was the wind? Mind you we knew that in the 1980s (peak demand on windless days), but someone forgot it in the meantime.
    And even more efficient wind produced by these modellers will still be grossly inefficient and uneconomic.

  41. Joe Citizen said on May 4, 2011 at 10:45 am:

    It will no doubt give some improvement within its limited scope, but it’s still just gilding a turd.

    Modern science meets modern art. Magnificent model masterpieces, mostly.

  42. “We have demonstrated an accurate and efficient algorithm for as many as 1000 turbines.”
    Until, of course, Bob the farmer plants energy forest or palm (oil) that changes all the wind dynamic of their perfect world models, or Bob the builder puts a second story on his house, or Bob the city planer thinks it be every so more beautifully to put all the nasty sky rises out of eye’s way by those ugly unruly good for nuthing bat chopping propellers. Or just if the forest surrounding the farm grows a couple of feet.
    But I’m sure they can stop the natural human society progress if they but will it. :p

  43. ‘Them’ was a great movie. James Whitmore very good and a pre Gunsmoke James Arness. And Edmund Gwenn of course.
    And a great introduction of the ants.
    “When man entered the atomic age, he opened the door to a new world. What we may eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict.”
    On topic – is it wise to build wind turbines in areas where tornadoes can spring up?

  44. PS – and if I remember aright there is a blink and you miss him appearance by Leonard Nimoy!

  45. #
    #
    CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
    May 4, 2011 at 10:46 am
    I’m keeping an open mind

    We will need every extra electron that we can muster, and wind energy is but one small piece of the puzzle. It may not replace nuclear/coal/gas, but there is a fit for this stuff in some instances.

    And your brains fell out!
    We do NOT need “every extra electron” at any price! There’s a maximum tolerable cost for everything, and windfarm electrons are WAY over the top. Nothing to do with how “mature” the technology is; it’s just fundamentally stupid to use a wildly variable input to generate stable useful output. When there are perfectly functional EXISTING stable inputs, at far lower cost “per electron”.

  46. IMHO the best ant movie ever made was Phase IV.
    If they’re going to build windfarms anyway, this seems like pretty interesting and reasonable research.
    Saying that, with endorsement by some eminent sceptics

  47. Trev says:
    May 4, 2011 at 11:55 am
    “‘Them’ was a great movie. James Whitmore very good and a pre Gunsmoke James Arness. And Edmund Gwenn of course.”
    You beat me to it, just barely. That was a great movie, for kids. It is a very young James Arness. And the sounds that the ants make are terrific.

  48. Genetic programming is like neural nets. Both are ways to attack a problem that you don’t understand. Personally, I’ve always had better luck understanding the nature of the problem first and then attacking with the application of first principles.
    But then I never dabbled in climate science.

  49. Ann In L.A. says (May 4, 2011 at 11:32 am): ‘It’s not “Them”, it’s “Them!”’
    But shouldn’t it really be “They!”? 🙂
    (Apologies for posting something so useless, but I’m padding my resume; I’m applying for a job in the wind power industry.)

  50. I work with tradies (Tradesman, Plumbers, Chippies, Brickies, Concreters etc) and they have a wonderful way of seeing things simply.
    “Yeh, beaudy, wish I was that smart. To be able work all that stuff out.”
    “What happens if the wind doesn’t blow”? 🙂

  51. BACK to the FUTURE
    As our quest for “green” power is having us look backwards in time to primitive techniques like wind and “child labor” “PlayPumps” see below:
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/03/merri-go-round-pump.php
    ? Why not return to harnessing animals turning a shaft and connect it to a generator ?
    http://www.sabor-artesano.com/image/millstone-roman/roman-millstone.jpg
    This “technique” could be a “backup” power source for windmills when the wind dies.
    I can see one of these in everyone’s back or front yards or even on every flat rooftop in the cities. So fun and easy even a child could do it. One of these would have about the same output as a small windmill, therefore a perfect match. We need to look, face, and be backwards to get “Back to the Future!” Giddy-up !

  52. viv evans wrote: “Just put an ant on the rim of an empty plant pot – and watch it go round and round and round and round, following its own pheromone trail.
    It will not get off that rim to join its colony, it cannot break off its own trail.
    Mindless, just like building more and more wind turbines …”
    The point is to have many ants, just as genetic algorithms and actual nature genetics generate many alternatives.
    Tucci78 wrote: “I propose that these wind turbines should be distributed so that one of each is sited on the residential property of every legislator who votes for their creation, every government officer of the executive branch who implements the enabling legislative acts and regulations, and every judge who rules in favor of their construction. ”
    Well that will make sense after everyone lives down wind or down stream from the coal, gas or nuclear powered plant that generates his or her electricity. I personally would rather live near a nuclear power plant (especially in California) than in most American cities, but I think I am in a small minority on that. The 45% of Americans who get all or most of their electricity from coal burning generally force a very tiny minority of their fellow citizens to breathe or drink the junk that the burning coal produces, and they don’t care a whit for the ill health and deaths suffered by their fellows. Wind turbines would probably produce a net improvement in American health, though it is hard to tell because at present the health care costs of coal consumption (that’s an intentional play on words) are hard to estimate.

  53. Maurice Gaurotte wrote: “Personally, I’ve always had better luck understanding the nature of the problem first and then attacking with the application of first principles.”
    That leads to intelligent design instead of evolution by random variation and natural selection. In lots of large systems, like aerodynamic drag, light bulbs, crop breeding, design of pharmaceuticals, climate and ecology, the systems are understood only in part, and intelligent design often can not compete against trial and error in any long run.

  54. I glad they’re getting this wind power generation down pat. It’s not like the wind ever changes direction or speed …

  55. Robert M. Wagner – Just watched the first trailer. Liked it. But it would really help if you put a name to every one of those people interviewed.
    I was wondering who those 25 year old ‘climate scientists’ were… at their age almost everything is unprecedented.

  56. The Ants (1)
    It was a small town, small in the way only really tiny things can be small. And yet, there was a melancholy flavor in the way the ants, with their brightly tinted bonnets and tattered Broadway musical scores, would parade up and down the street until the wee wee hours of the morning. Their only snacks would be the veal cutlets dispersed by old Jack’s cropduster fleet.
    But even then, things were changing. The low bleating of the Sheep of the Ages softened to a dull roar, gradually, year by imperfect year, until at last it was all over. No more would the ants bravely strip naked in celebration of the harvest. Brutal big-eyed hamsters with meat cleavers and finely tuned muffin launchers roamed the streets of the small town. An ant wasn’t safe now, not any more.
    The town fair was a haven of relative peace; here the hamsters dared not go, not yet, not until the Great Shaving. Every fall, as the days lengthened, and the toads swelled to enormous size in anticipation of the seasonal junkets, a little sunshine would rejuvenate the ants’ bleak, pathetic lives. They would bet merrily on their eel-driven chariot races… raucous laughter would fill the air at the weevil fartathon… and it would be as it once was, for a time, until the twilight came, and with it, the soft rustle-rustle-THUMP of the creeping hamsters, hauling their rickety pianos out to the town square in ominous fashion.

  57. On this topic, they may as well just put ants on treadmills. First Goldman Sachs et al need to figure out how they can rent out the ants.
    No, wait… ants produce CO2.

  58. David Suzuki , while genetically engineering temperature sensitive fruit flies: http://www.pnas.org/content/68/5/890.full.pdf+html
    decides we are actually maggots: http://thesecretsofvancouver.com/wordpress/is-our-beloved-david-suzuki-still-a-eugenicist/environment
    Dr. Tim Flannery thinks we are evolving to termite level:
    “Flannery described the theory of his book in brief: that human society is, in fact, a superorganism, upon which we – like ants, termites, and other hive-mind insects – are entirely codependent. While such a comparison may sound unflattering, Flannery was careful to explain the difference between us and our cockroach compatriots. They’re linked together by genes, he told the audience, while we are connected by the desire, evolved over millennia, to divide labour, to co-operate, and to be together. Scientific socialism! It sounds idealistic, but hey, if it helps convince people that we need to work together to prevent looming environmental catastrophe, I’m all for it.” http://www.blogscanada.ca/2011/04/15/an-evening-with-environmentalist-tim-flannery-why-we%E2%80%99re-like-termites-and-why-that%E2%80%99s-a-good-thing/
    All the ants I knew did not get grants, worked hard and adapted to their changing surroundings.
    Do great minds really think alike?

  59. K.E. = 1/2 * mass* velocity^2
    This is the biggest problem with windmills. You have no control over “v”. If you depend for energy on something you have no control over your asking for trouble.

  60. Septic Matthew:
    At May 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm you assert:
    ” Wind turbines would probably produce a net improvement in American health, though it is hard to tell because at present the health care costs of coal consumption (that’s an intentional play on words) are hard to estimate.”
    No, you are wrong on both counts.
    Windfarms provide health problems both by their flicker and their subsonic noise.
    And the only reason that “the health care costs of coal consumption … are hard to estimate” is because the health effects of coal consumption – if they exist – are too small for them to be detected.
    Richard

  61. “Tucci78 says:
    May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am
    I propose that these wind turbines should be distributed so that one of each is sited on the residential property of every legislator who votes for their creation, every government officer of the executive branch who implements the enabling legislative acts and regulations, and every judge who rules in favor of their construction.
    Let’s turn “NIMBY” on its head. You want it done on the public dime, you pork-feeding bastiches?
    Okay, you live with the consequences.”
    Strongly Agree.

  62. Surely there are enough wind turbines installed around the world that they can get real data from them and decide which is optimally sited, rather than sit in their air-conditioned offices (cold in Adelaide at the moment) and playing with simulations.
    On the other hand, how much grant money would be needed for Dr Neumann to travel the world to get the data? Maybe he can use his al-gore-ithm to determine if applying for a grant is more effective than sitting in his office with his ant farm.

  63. The same algorithm is used to optimize climate models.
    Like ants, climate scientists try models with many different weightings of the various forcings (for example, how important is land use as compared to CO2), until they discover a model that hindcast well and delivers the future prediction they expect.
    What they don’t tell you is that there are many other combinations that also hindcast well, but deliver totally different predictions for the future.

  64. Nice Bit Of Work. Collecting energy which is mostly useless more efficiently is a big advance. Evidently storage – which is the real missing ingredient is more difficult.

  65. D Caldwell says:
    May 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm
    Lipstick on a pig!
    We just need the right software to get the color optimized 🙂

  66. Kum Dollison says:
    May 4, 2011 at 10:04 am (Edit)
    You don’t understand: Why should we – the taxpayers – waste five TIMES the resources and effort and money and power and materials just to get an inefficient, ineffective, not-useable power supply?
    Here and on other treads you’ve touted wind power in California, Kansas, Germany, Spain, etc. The actual real world results of wind power there have been failures – loss of the grid, loss of stability, loss of jobs, loss of reliability. Loss of money.
    Why should we waste money and resources on hot air (er, wind)? In NO place has wind been effective unless subsidized artificially by government money.
    — With respect to this thread, note that the “optimism” placement of a random number of wind turbines ONLY can be applied on a flat area of varying area with no interferences (an ocean wind farm actually.)
    On ANY other location, hills, mountains, roads, cities, lakes, rivers, power lines, towns and the ecology underneath (forest, ravines, farms, etc.) will abort his careful optimum arrangement.
    For example – most – if not almost all – current windmills in a hilly region are in a straight row on the edge of a rapidly rising cliff face perpendicular to the most common wind direction. You will never be able to “optimize” anything better in hills.

  67. Optimising something which is 2% to 8% efficient, will gain what exactly?
    Adding an umpteenth of a squirt more will a (did someone say “huge” benifit) very minor increase, of a very poor product.

  68. Good to see a story about my Alumni – but having said that, almost everything Adelaide Uni does these days makes me embarrassed to have attained my degree there.

  69. Betapug says:
    May 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm
    “They’re [cockroaches] linked together by genes, he told the audience, while we are connected by the desire, evolved over millennia, to divide labour, to co-operate, and to be together.”
    Really, has anyone polled the People’s Republic of China lately to see what they are thinking of the one child per couple policy? I guess those millions of mate-less, date-less young males are so proud of their cooperative spirit that they feel no pain at all.
    In a human “cockroach colony”, what role would scientists have?

  70. “Ant colony optimisation” uses the principle of ants finding the shortest way to a source of food from their nest.
    “You can observe them in nature, they do it very efficiently communicating between each other using pheromone trails,” says Dr Neumann. “After a certain amount of time, they will have found the best route to the food – problem solved. We can also solve human problems using the same principles through computer algorithms.”
    ———————————————————————-
    Unless Dr Neumann has been misquoted, or poorly edited, I fear that he is on the wrong track 🙂 here.
    There is nothing ‘efficient’ about how ants find food and routes between food and the nest. This link has a good explanation of how they do it:
    http://mute-net.sourceforge.net/howAnts.shtml
    It is quite effective, but far from efficient, either in the way they find food in the first place (large numbers of food seekers randomly wandering around), or in the way they bring it back (by following the shortest path taken by an individual ant, which can still be much longer than a straight line).
    Dr Neumann’s peculiar definition of the word ‘efficient’ no doubt puts him right in tune with the gestalt of the wind power industry.

  71. Tucci78, I’m right with you on that one!
    Roger Pielke Sr has a study of wind power generation originally from the “Earth Systems Dynamics” Journal entitled “Estimating maximum global land surface wind power extractability and associated climatic consequences”.
    http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/1/169/2010/esdd-1-169-2010.html
    OK, it is just the output of models again but at least they don’t project forward 50 years with a totally unverifiable prediction.
    Estimated useable wind energy across the land masses of the world is between 17 and 38 Terra Watts annually.
    A check with International Energy Associations figures on annual global energy use indicates that we are approaching 17 TW’s energy consumption annually which includes every type of energy generation system , oil, gas, hydro, alternative and etc.
    Global energy consumption is rising at about 1.4% per year which I assume is a compounded rise.
    So if every available wind turbine location on each and every one of the Earth’s land masses had a wind turbine installed and each of those turbines operated at 100% performance for 100% of the time, they would just supply the Earth’s current annual energy needs.
    But there’s more; To quote from the abstract; “Furthermore, we show with the climate model simulations that the climatic effects at maximum wind power extraction are similar in magnitude to those associated with a doubling of atmospheric CO2.”
    Nice one here! Install wind turbines and increase global warming.
    Their modeling indicates that the turbine’s extraction of surface levels of wind energy plus the turbulence involved from such a dense global network of turbines would raise global temperatures by about the same amount as a doubling of CO2.
    When I see those great ugly health damaging wind turbines stuck in the middle of the big city’s high flying wealthy investor living suburbs then I will accept them out amongst those “country peasants” whose health, well being and lifestyle don’t count with the grossly subsidised, wealthy tax payer exploiting investors in wind turbines.
    One turbine is interesting
    Five turbines are a photo op.
    Fifty turbines are a health impairing, tax payer exploiting blight upon the landscape.

  72. At 1:20 PM on 4 May, TomB had written:

    The Ants (1)
    It was a small town, small in the way only really tiny things can be small. And yet, there was a melancholy flavor in the way the ants, with their brightly tinted bonnets and tattered Broadway musical scores, would parade up and down the street until the wee wee hours of the morning. Their only snacks would be the veal cutlets dispersed by old Jack’s cropduster fleet.
    But even then, things were changing. The low bleating of the Sheep of the Ages softened to a dull roar, gradually, year by imperfect year, until at last it was all over. No more would the ants bravely strip naked in celebration of the harvest. Brutal big-eyed hamsters with meat cleavers and finely tuned muffin launchers roamed the streets of the small town. An ant wasn’t safe now, not any more.
    The town fair was a haven of relative peace; here the hamsters dared not go, not yet, not until the Great Shaving. Every fall, as the days lengthened, and the toads swelled to enormous size in anticipation of the seasonal junkets, a little sunshine would rejuvenate the ants’ bleak, pathetic lives. They would bet merrily on their eel-driven chariot races… raucous laughter would fill the air at the weevil fartathon… and it would be as it once was, for a time, until the twilight came, and with it, the soft rustle-rustle-THUMP of the creeping hamsters, hauling their rickety pianos out to the town square in ominous fashion.

    _
    Hm. Get that up to satisfactory sample chapter length, whip together an outline, and find yourself an agent. The intellectually incestuous East Coast publishing establishment will offer you beaucoup bucks while promoting you to a Pulitzer Prize.
    Maybe James Cameron will plagiarize it and get himself another megablockbuster, too.

  73. Sometimes a discovery in one area of science can be transferred to another area. For example, the most efficient and cost effective method to exterminate migratory birds by placing large killing machines in their flight paths can probably be cross-applied to the efficient placement of windmills.
    /sarc

  74. Survival of the fittest is a mis-diagnosis.
    The truth is more prosaic.
    It’s just a temporary failure to become extinct that we observe.
    Remember, that 99.99% of all creature types have succeeded where we have (so far) quite failed.
    So keep on trying.
    Abandon all efficient forms of power generation, all domestic methane breathing farm animals and so forth.
    We may yet achieve the ultimate and ourselves add to that glorious list of the great extinct beings.

  75. This research, like much of the research in support of global warming from green house gases, is part of a conspiratorial formula for success, spreading the wealth. If one looks honestly at wind power, looking at just the issues of practicality, there are two major limitations associated with wind power, its impact on the grid and wind variability and unpredictability. If one looks at the extensive funding designated by the NREL in 2010, for example, one finds that little development is aimed at either of the above issues and that the majority of the funds are doled out to other national laboratories and major research institutions in areas that are nonesential. There is no major program to solve the energy storage problems which follow from the above issues. By spreading the wealth around in relatively minor areas of development like this research, it means that there are many people willing to support wind farms because it means continued financial support for them. So even if the researchers saw wind farms as a bad idea, they still would feast at the trough. The wealth silences objections to the idea that the world can solve its energy problems with wind turbines and at the same time reduce the use of fossil fuels. Naturally when you consider all of the people as wind power advocates; wind power companies, environmentalists, politicians, government agencies, public relation firms, and professional advocates for wind power, it becomes quite clear that the wind farm opponents are vastly outnumbered. It is sad that science takes a back seat to this sef serving bunch. One possibility is that popular concept of wind farms won’t work in the long run after we are billions poorer.

  76. Kum Dollinson:
    You have repeatedly demonstrated that you ignore each and every point put to you.
    So, in response to your silly assertion (citing the UN) that
    “Nearly all the world’s energy could be produced from Renewables by 2050”
    I merely say; dream on.
    Richard

  77. I wrote my final year dissertation on evolutionary algorithms, it’s actually a really interesting branch of computer science, and the solutions they come up with are often completely unexpected yet elegant.

  78. Under-employed entymologists are coming to the AGW funding banquet a bit late.

  79. Kum Dollison says:
    May 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm (Edit)

    U.N. – Nearly all the world’s energy could be produced from Renewables by 2050.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/04/us-energy-ipcc-idUSTRE74325N20110504

    Ya know – You’re right. We could generate all of the world’s (electric) energy from remewables even earlier than that.
    Ya gonna let me burn U238 and U233 into Plutonium and Thorium? And put these new nukes in the third world dictatorships that abide everywhere but capitalist economies ….

  80. Stanley says:
    May 4, 2011 at 6:55 pm (Edit)

    The wind farms I’ve seen look good and seem to make use of all of the wind-slow and fast.

    The wind farms we ACTUALLY STUDIED – not just looked at turning uselessly – generate useable power 21% of the time. You need to waste money, time and energy building 5 wind turbines – just to get the nameplate output of 1 wind turbine. Until you have a storm blow through – then you get all 5 wind turbine output – until the storm winds exceed the turbine’s limit (usually 40+ mph) – then you suddenly get NO output. And you STILL need to build a 100% conventional backup generator.
    Why don’t we not waste resources by not building ANY subsidized windmills. Where they can make money – let the operators make money naturally.

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