Bearings: The Achilles Heel of Wind Turbines

Story by Eric Worrall –

wind_turbine_bearings[1]A few years ago, I used to know a senior wind turbine engineer. One evening, over a few beers, he told me the dirty secret of his profession:

“The problem is the bearings. If we make the bearings bigger, the bearings last longer, but making the bearings larger increases friction, which kills turbine efficiency. But we can’t keep using the current bearings – replacing them is sending us broke. What we need is a quantum leap in bearing technology – bearing materials which are at least ten times tougher than current materials.”

At the time there was very little corroborating online material available to support this intriguing comment – but evidence seems to be accumulating that bearings are a serious problem for the wind industry.

Siemens citing bearing failures as part of the reason for a substantial fall in profit;

http://www.offshorewind.biz/2014/05/07/siemens-energy-division-profit-down-54-pct/

In the announcement of the opening of a new Siemens research facility;

http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2013/03/19/siemens-wind-turbine-research/

“… The Brande test center would evaluate the main parts of their wind turbines such as main bearings …”

http://www.geartechnology.com/newsletter/0112/drives.htm (an attempt to make direct drive turbines, to reduce bearing wear)

“… More accurately, it is typically the bearings within the gearbox that fail, in turn gumming up the gearbox, but that’s a story for another time. …”

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

“… During summer 2010 Siemens decided to change the blade bearings on all 25 turbines as a pre-emptive measure after corrosion was found in blade bearings found on other sites. …”

Of course, there is the occasional video of catastrophic turbine failure;

Suggestions the industry is trying to conceal the scale of the turbine fire problem;

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2695266/Wind-turbine-fire-risk-Number-catch-alight-year-ten-times-higher-industry-admits.html

All of which creates an interesting question – just how much of our money is the government prepared to waste, to keep their wind dream afloat? If the costs are far greater than the industry admits, how long is the wind industry going to carry that additional hidden cost, before they try to push the costs onto taxpayers, or abandon wind technology altogether?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116877/Is-future-Britains-wind-rush.html

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Maintenance and repair costs are always an integral part of sound investment analysis. A much shorter than anticipated lifetime of rotor blades, gearbox and generator would definitely have a negative impact on net present value.

High Treason

We have a mob in Australia-Beyond Zero Emissions that reckons it is viable to build a high speed rail link Brisbane-Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne powered by wind and solar. Looks like their power supply will be a bit more expensive than they thought. As it is, their figures were idiotically optimistic. I did my own calculations- no way it could be built for 84 billion, especially as a conventional rail system in Sydney completed recently that goes about 1/5 the way across the whole city cost 8.4 billion. The high speed rail cost per km is considerably higher ( turning circle, security to prevent anything entering the track precinct-bit messy being hit at 300mph) so they are deluded. If they are off by as little as 20%, the thing can NEVER pay itself off-just get deeper and deeper in to debt.Honestly, since when did any major infrastructure project actually run on budget? Then again, estimates of efficiency and total power output of wind power are grossly overestimated.

Joe Crawford

If they’re anything like the environmentalists here in the states they are probably planning on mounting wind turbines on each car of the train to power it.

ken

But just think…the faster the train goes, the more power will be generated!!
Lol.

simple-touriste

Cost for high speed (“commercial speed” 320 km/h) railroads in France: 15 millions € per km (rail only, no station building). It can get higher when many bridges are needed. Most high speed railroads will never cover their cost.
Normal railroad “just” only 1 million per km.

Bruce Cobb

In an honest free market industry, one would hope that ball bearing failure would have been forseen by those engineering the systems. But, since this is essentially a fake industry propped up by government and ultimately taxpayers and ratepayers, not so much.

Post ruined by the last paragraph and linking to The Daily Mail *twice*. Linking to the Daily Mail is a credibility killer, and for good reason.
Even if you are not an AGW believer, I don’t understand why you would be against developing renewables. All energy production technology has technological limitations to be overcome. Internal combustion engines have been constantly improved since their inception simply to overcome known limitations of their design. Gearboxes, carburators and different engine geometries and mechanisms (2-stroke, 4-stroke etc) were early examples of leaps in technology to overcome existing issues.
Similarly, wind turbines have issues that need to be addressed to unleash the potential that lies in the technology. The major one, as is the case with a lot of technological development right now, is in energy storage. As a non-constant producer of energy, ways of storing excess energy production will be required over time. This is coming. This post highlights another issue, the bearings, that perhaps has not received enough (public) attention until now. That is a good thing. Dismissing the entire technology on the basis of one technological limitation – one that isn’t even of fatal importance, even – is not a good thing.
In the end, limiting ourselves to single venues of energy production is just a way to set us up for failure – particularly if that single venue is based on finite resources. This does not mean we should not use those finite resources; it simply means we should use more than that.
I mean, the current uptick in renewable energy production is just market forces at work. The public wants renewables, and the market is in a place where it obviously pays. And before you object by means of invoking subsidies, I will rebut that with the fact that pretty much all energy production is subsidised – and the fossil fuel industry is *massively* subsidised. Subsidies, government or not, are entirely valid market-based mechanisms for steering developments in desirable directions – and they do work.

No, the “public” doesn’t want high cost renewables. They want low cost power. There is well heeled “portion” of the public that want to assuage their guilt for existing by buying “green” with no clue as to what “green” is and how many companies claim to be “green” that are not “green” at all. No links. Look it up. I like my diesel in my tractor and I like riding my horses not walking behind them with a plough.
The roads, the sewers, the water system, the gas, the electricity that you use in your home are ALL subsidized in one way or another. I have worked on them all and part of the calculations of the economics ALWAYS involved looking at what money came from where. Subsidies of one sort or another float through the whole of the North American Economy..

simple-touriste

“are ALL subsidized in one way or another”
how?
by who?
Fact, number, sources, please.

Ken Petkau

Wayne, well said.

tty

“As a non-constant producer of energy, ways of storing excess energy production will be required over time. This is coming.”
Sure it is. It has been coming for the last 100 years, and probably will be coming for the next century as well. There is no practical technology for large-scale energy storage except pumped hydropower that even exists as a concept.

Stop with the propaganda. The fossil fuel industry is not subsidized. The amount the industry pays in taxes far exceeds any tax breaks they get. They get zero in checks from the Feds, yet pay massively to the Feds and States.

Boibd06

When people say the oil industry is subsidized they think it’s a big tax break, which it is not.
Here are the main examples in the US:
– topping up the oil reserve
– energy subsidies for low income households
– manufacturer tax breaks on the cost of doing business (available to all manufacturers).
These add up to approx $4B. The taxes they pay are many times more.
So when some greenie ecotard says the oil industry is heavily subsidized, they are full of it.

What they call subsidies in the US are in fact:
– topping up the oil reserve (national security)
– energy subsidies to low in come households (Federal Assistance)
– manufacturers tax break (available to all manufacturers)
These total approx $4B which is far less than the taxes they pay.
When supporters of renewables go on about oil subsidies they are trying to defect from the fact that renewables wouldn’t exist with tax dollars, period.

TYoke

You state that renewable success is being driven by market forces, but fossil fuels are massively subsidized.
That is delusional on a spectacular scale. Shouting entirely absurd lies does not make you credible.

Michael 2

“I don’t understand why you would be against developing renewables. ”
Straw man argument. Is anyone here actually against developing renewables? I didn’t think so.

Ted Clayton

BJ Hanssen (@BJHanssen) @August 26, 2014 at 3:54 am

… I don’t understand why you would be against developing renewables.

You mean, like the Elwha River hydroelectric dams?

spike 1

The rest of your post losses credibility when you state that the fossil fuel industry is subsidized. Its a lie and you know it. Where does the subsidies come from in Saudi Arabia ? The sale of sand ? All the petroleum and gas producing countries and regions are prosperous beyond their wildest dreams.

Kevin

Disinformation. EROEI Energy Return On Energy Invested. The science there is also against you. http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/
The money quote; “Several recent analyses of the inputs to our energy systems indicate that, against expectations, energy storage cannot solve the problem of intermittency of wind or solar power.  Not for reasons of technical performance, cost, or storage capacity, but for something more intractable: there is not enough surplus energy left over after construction of the generators and the storage system to power our present civilization.”.

R Steward

A few days ago in Weymouth (UK) I heard that one boat in the harbour had a full time job taking diesel out to the local wind farm to keep the blades spinning to stop the gear boxes from seizing.

Mkelley

This wind farm in Hawaii only produces power 45% of the time. The other 55% of the time, power is produced by diesel generators that back up the wind farm’s turbines. Yeah, so much for “green power”:
–The Waimea Generating Station is located only a few hundred yards from my house. It is owned and operated by Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO). The plant consists of three 2.5 MW diesel engine generators that are fired on Number 2 fuel oil with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5 percent by weight. Every time I notice that its calm on my morning run, I can always find the smoke rising from these generators. They come on when the wind turbines aren’t spinning–.
http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Wind-Power/When-the-Wind-Doesnt-Blow.html

BJ Hanssen (@BJHanssen)
August 26, 2014 at 3:54 am
Polywell Fusion.

Re: turbine failure – reduce the warranty period. Then blame rising costs on poor maintenance.

ConfusedPhoton

BJ Hanssen stated
“I mean, the current uptick in renewable energy production is just market forces at work. ”
The huge subsidies being pumped into renewables is not “market forces”. Most people are here are not against renewables but their inefficiencies and their massive subsidies! Without long term sudsidies they was remain a minor blip in world energy production.

D. Cohen

Every time I drive by one of those giant spinning propellers, I wonder what would happen if one of them broke and a giant, cartwheeling piece of it headed toward the road. Those things are obviously dangerous. That they are also a more expensive source of power just underlines how stupid their use is.
You cannot buy a household electric fan without a safety cage, but these giant propellers are supposedly fit to operate anywhere without anything similar to protect the public…

Mkelley
ralphcramdo

I can see it now. A new reality show “Wind Farm Scrapers”.

BJ Hanssen
No, Linking to ‘The Guardian’ is a credibility killer. In this small crowded country (Britain) wind factories really jar as they are often placed on our finest uplands. You don’t save the environment by trashing the countryside.
I believe in energy horses for courses and in the UK’s position both wind and solar are bad ideas for a variety of reasons, aesthetic, technological and monetary.. However, nowhere here is further than 70 miles from the sea so the development of ocean based energy sources seem the obvious way forward for us.
tonyb

Joe Public

@ D. Cohen August 26, 2014 at 4:13 am
The guard around your household electric fan is to stop it amputating your fingers, not contain a flying fragment of fanblade should it fragment.

Michael

A cage would not hold any part of one of those 7 ton blades anyhow. But they build them closer to homes than blade throw distances, or even the manufacturers safety setbacks. So irresponsible!

simple-touriste

Not only that, some wind turbines are close to chemical units:

“Oui, il y a un risque avec les éoliennes”, estime Jan Bens. “On est en train de remplir le port d’Anvers d’éoliennes, alors qu’il y a des industries chimiques juste à côté. Si un accident se produit, via un bris de pale, ce sera une guillotine. Et si elle transperce une conduite de chlore, c’est un problème d’un autre ordre que ce qui peut se passer à Doel. Les éoliennes sont plus dangereuses que les centrales nucléaires.”

my translation:

“Yes, there is a risk with wind turbines”, says Jan Bens. “We are putting wind turbines in Antwerp port, but there are chemical industries nearby. In case of an accident, with a broken blade, it will be a guillotine. And if it breaks a piping of chlorine, it will be a problem of a different order than what can happen in Doel. Wind turbines are more dangerous than nuclear power plants. ”

Source: http://www.7sur7.be/7s7/fr/2765/Environnement/article/detail/1635455/2013/05/18/Les-eoliennes-plus-dangereuses-que-les-centrales-nucleaires.dhtml

Ray Kuntz

BJ
Your response is a political statement about a decades old industry, that has very real engineering problems on many fronts that it has not been able to resolve. Your understanding of the economic and public demand for this technology is also suspect. Sorry to be rude but your post is nothing more than elegantly worded Cool-aide.

ddpalmer

“I don’t understand why you would be against developing renewables”
Who is against developing renewables? I doubt you will find anyone, or at least a significant number, of people here who are against developing anything. The issue most people here seem to have is with deploying a technology that is not developed to the point of viability
” one that isn’t even of fatal importance”
So lying about the costs of operating wind turbines isn’t of fatal importance? How can you compare different energy sources without real truthful information about the total costs?
If the bearing issue is severe enough it turns an investment in wind turbines from a profitable venture into a black hole of debt.
I agree that all technologies have issues and are improved over time. But if wind turbines have not reached a point where they can succesfully provide power at a reasonable cost then the solution is not to keep building and promoting them as a currently viable technology. the solution is to continue with research into improving the technology to the point of viability and not pouring vast quantities of money (much of it public money) into a currently non-viable venture.
“I mean, the current uptick in renewable energy production is just market forces at work.”
When the government provides FITs and rebates and tax advantages it is not ‘market forces at work’. It is politics forcing a technology onto the public for political reasons.

Patrick Keane

Hi,
The vague term “bearing failure due to corrosion” from one of the reports quoted is disingenuous!
A major cause of bearing failure is a result of “Brinelling” (the flattening of the ball or the indentation of the bearing track, due to pressure of weight of turbine shaft and armature). Do a Google search on brinelling.
The flat spot on the ball will cause the ball to skid and not to rotate, thus creating heat and premature failure.
The need to avoid brinelling can be seen in all large roting machinery, in that a “cogging” motor is fitted to keep the shaft constantly slowly turning when the device is unoperational.
This is the reason that you will see wind turbine blades slowly rotating even on a windless day. They are taking power from the grid to drive their cogging motors.
Failure of the grid supply to a wind turbine, or a fault condition that results in the blades being locked, will soon cause problems.
Changing bearings high in the air on top of a wind turbine tower is not a job for the faint hearted!
One of the worst environments for turbines is the use of gas turbines in naval vessels. The large naval marine turbines have to be cogged constantly in harbour, as any chop or pounding will increase the bearing degredation.
My father in law, was a charted mechanical engineer, who worked the design on aircraft engines all his life. He would never purchase a newv car that had been delivered on a transporter. He used to claim that the bumping and shock on the axles of the stationary cars on the transporter during its journey would cause brinelling of the car’s wheel bearings, shortening the bearing life. He always tried to buy cars delivered under their own power, by a delivery driver, not by transporter.

TerryS

and the fossil fuel industry is *massively* subsidised.

Then depends on what you think of as a subsidy.
Here in the UK, VAT on domestic energy bills (gas and electric) is set at 5% instead of 20%. The billions not raised as revenue is considered to be a subsidy to the fossil fuel industry.
Oil and gas companies pay 50% Petroleum Revenue Tax (PRT) and 32% Supplementary Charge (SC). Additionally, they have the Ring Fence Corporation Tax (RFCT) which prevents them from offsetting profits in one part with losses in another. When an oil field runs low the SC is reduced This is also considered to be a subsidy.
Much is being made of the UK governments decision to give fracking tax breaks. What they are actually doing is reducing the SC and relaxing the RFCT so costs can be offset against profits. As usual, this is also considered a subsidy despite the fact that any fracking company will still be paying tax at more than twice the rate of any wind farm.
The so called fossil fuel subsidies don’t exist.

simple-touriste

Yes, and OECD is guilty of these manipulations! They have this list of fossil subsidies for many countries, and as usual with any “information” I read, I compared the “information” with things I already know about, that is the subsidies and taxes here in France. And OECD lists diesel fuel as being subsided in France, just because it is taxed (heavily), but less than classical (non-diesel, I don’t know the correct word) car fuel. I don’t care about what they writes about other countries, given that they couldn’t get a very simple fact right about France, a country where the tax rules are documented and easily available.
So I know this OECD fossil subsidies list is a load of crap. Now I will question anything green- or “sustainable-” related OECD publishes.

PiperPaul

As usual, the question is ‘When will there be a loud, repeating voice in the main stream media that will counter all the watermelon bafflegab?’.

John M

This provides the evidence that wind advocates have lost their bearings 🙂

M Seward

Yours truly is a design engineer and regognises this bearing issue as just another bit of engineering reality that loads up the capex and the repair and maintenance costs of this hair brained technology and its submerged cousin, wave power.
The basic problem is, once you steel yourself and put aside the intermittent and fluctuating nature of the FREE ENERGY!! supply, including all that FREE ENERGY !! that rips past in a storm, the devices have to be engineered for the expectation that extreme weather events will occur that will obliterate the device unless it is engineered to resist 5 to 10 times its normal FREE ENERGY !! harvesting capacity.
What other devices have to have such load factors? Not many and nothing at the core of primary community infrastructure.
FREE ENERGY!! is an advertising slogan that belongs down some supermarket aisle, the one with the chocolates, potato crisps and other junk food.

M Seward

actually I ‘recognises’ it

Bearings are a B—-! But motion does require them.

P. Berkin

I wonder if Siemens realise that their name is an anagram of nemesis?

TerryS

Bearings have been around a long time, here is one by Leonardo da Vinci.

Ex-expat Colin

Anybody seen an FMEA for these freaking things? And of course selling this junk to just one bunch of dumb customers solves all maintenance costs. And we are so lucky with the deal(s) the first five service years is free of maintenance charges I believe?
I had the brinelling failure on a car gearbox input shaft bearing after 21k miles…Mazda. Had to write to Hiroshima to get the manufacturer to kick the UK local agents ar*e. Very awkward b*stards so gaining BMW another sale.

BJ
the holy grail of energy storage for wind energy will never make economic sense because it reduces the EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) of wind energy below the break even point. John Morgan explains why in this recent article titled The Catch-22 of Energy Storage http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

PhilCP

BJ Hanssen (@BJHanssen):
“I mean, the current uptick in renewable energy production is just market forces at work. The public wants renewables, and the market is in a place where it obviously pays. ”
Give me a break. There are no market forces in favor of wind energy. During low demand times (especially spring runoff) in western Canada/USA, mandated, extremely expensive wind power is forced onto the grid, driving grid prices down into negative territory. That’s right, it’s cheaper to waste energy at those times. As a result, dams shut down their turbines and water is allowed to spill over the spillways, because it’s more cost effective.
Do you get that? During those low demand periods, every bit of expensive renewable energy is simply wasted by being spilled over a dam. Result: Truckloads of money are taken directly from ratepayers and given to corporations, with no net gain in renewable energy production during those times.

Keith Willshaw

BJ Hanssen said
“Post ruined by the last paragraph and linking to The Daily Mail *twice*. Linking to the Daily Mail is a credibility killer, and for good reason.
Even if you are not an AGW believer, I don’t understand why you would be against developing renewables.”
I have absolutely nothing against *developing* renewables. As an engineer and taxpayer I do have real problems with large scale implementation of a technology that requires massive subsidy. You raised the canard that fossil fuels are heavily subsidised. This is true in a handful of developing countries but in the EU, USA, Canada and Australia fossil fuels are taxed, sometimes very heavily. The ‘subsidies’ so often quoted are tax breaks which simply means the government in question levies LESS of a tax than otherwise would happen. Take the UK situation
Tax revenue from Fuel 2009 £33.8 billion
Subsidy for renewables 2009 £1.1 billion
Note the bulk of the cost of renewables is recovered by a levy on domestic electricity prices which of course hits the poor disproportionately hard.

BJHanssen commented as if wind technology was new and the issues will be sorted like issues with internal combustion engines.
This ignores the fact that wind energy is a very old technology – 14th century perhaps. It was abandoned in the 19th century in Holland for pumping water in favor of fossil fuels. I don’t believe the Dutch are reverting to windmills for land drainage.
Modern materials might improve wind energy slightly but will not overcome the fundamental faults – low energy density and variable wind speeds. This article highlights the difficulties of making massive windmills. Unless the design of windmills changes fundamentally it is difficult to see how it could ever become cost effective. I expect that by the time fossil fuels become scarce and rise in price improvements in nuclear energy (thorium, fusion?) and possibly solar will cause them to be preferred to wind.

In Dixville NH the “Granite Reliable” wind project went online in December 2011 with 33 Vestas V-90 turbines, each with 3 MW output (on a good day). The original plan was to shrink the access road to return some of the land to a semi-natural state, but after one mainshaft bearing failed and others may follow, the operator has petitioned the state to leave it at the 16 foot width and “promises to make amends elsewhere on the mountain by planting more trees” per http://nhpr.org/post/public-counsel-hearings-widening-road-wind-turbines-should-be-held-coos
I think bearing failure rates in the field have been much higher than manufacturers anticipated. Steam turbines at large conventional power plants last a long time, or at least get replaced with little fuss.
Wind shear (different speeds at different heights) and turbulence may be putting much greater forces on the blades and hence on to the main shaft than anticipated. High power turbines such as those at Granite Reliable (who chose that name, anyway?) with their longer blades (lever arms) seem to have a shorter lifetime.
From second hand information, snowmobilers last winter reported the turbines were a lot louder last winter than the winter before. I don’t know if it’s just due to wind speed differences, but it certainly could be a sign of bearing wear. Twenty year lifetime? ‘fraid not.

Unmentionable

M Seward
August 26, 2014 at 4:33 am
Yours truly is a design engineer and regognises this bearing issue as just another bit of engineering reality that loads up the capex and the repair and maintenance costs of this hair brained technology and its submerged cousin, wave power.

The answer to all this nonsense is economics. If it can’t be paid for then don’t try to buy it, or else you go broke. If you do ‘buy’ it you begin to send everyone else broke and are back asking for a bailout. If there is a much cheaper tech then use it. The idea everyone is forced to use a bankrupting technology, suppresses the economy and financial resources that could be used for other things, and raises all power bills thus draining disposable incomes of all, due to the lame old CO2 global warming excuse, is completely bonkers.
It would be cheaper to cut all the wind farms adrift, let them sink or swim on merit, like every other economic entity, no one needs them and most people don’t seem to want them, and when they fail, and the ‘business’ is no more, who will have to fork out again to have these clapped-out windmills removed?
Oh, just the people who ran profitable businesses and didn’t have any subsidy supports to do it. What happens when national economic advice and energy policy formulation comes from the gurus of greenism.
“… 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. …”

dan

It seems like what you’d want to do is lay the windmill flat on the ground and use magnets so there’s no friction, like the monorail at Disneyworld, and no need for bearings… and then somehow funnel the wind down through the turbine.

M Seward
August 26, 2014 at 4:33 am
> The basic problem is, once you steel yourself and put aside the intermittent and fluctuating nature of the FREE ENERGY!!
In some sense, all energy is free, however the cost of converting it to something useful is expensive.
People pay for coal brought to the power plant (and to pay the lease on the land). People pay for wind by bringing the collector, turbine, and power grid to the mountain ridge (and pay for the lease on the land).

CodeTech

Actually, BJ has missed the entire point.
“Wind” and other “renewables” are far more than simple technology challenges. They had significant money put into them in the 70s during the Energy Crisis, and were found to be useless. Today, they are more useless, but this time it’s the government that is stuck paying for the uselessness.
Internal combustion engines, diesel, hydro, turbines, and all other portions of the current energy mix (except some parts of Nuclear) were created and refined with private money and not governments. As long as governments keep throwing more money into the deep, dark, failure hole of “renewables” and other climate related scams, I will be against them.
If you want to support “renewables” and waste your own private money, go ahead. Leave me out of it.

John Law

“But there do exist drawbacks to direct drive; for one, the uncertainty over the cost and availability of rare earth elements, a necessity for direct drive permanent magnets.”
So more Chinese miners and peasants die as part of the lifecycle cost of these green beauties.
Still, they are not middle class activists, so no probs!

MarkW

BJ Hansen, nobody is against you spending your own money to develop alternative energy sources, what we object to is the desire of you and people like you to spend our money developing such sources.
You seem to be offended that we dare to point out that wind energy is not cost effective and that those who have been pushing it have continued to hide it’s true costs.
Shouldn’t you be upset with those who have been lying to us, rather than fuming at those who have exposed the lie?
BTW, the general method is to demonstrate that a source is faulty, merely declaring it to be so is insufficient.

Tucci78

At 3:54 AM on 26 August, BJ Hanssen perpetrates argumentum ad hominem

Post ruined by the last paragraph and linking to The Daily Mail *twice*. Linking to the Daily Mail is a credibility killer, and for good reason.

…and then goes on to give us Real Soon Now:

Similarly, wind turbines have issues that need to be addressed to unleash the potential that lies in the technology. The major one, as is the case with a lot of technological development right now, is in energy storage. As a non-constant producer of energy, ways of storing excess energy production will be required over time. This is coming.

Er, well, uh….
Okay. So until whatever “is coming” actually comes, why build those bird-munching bat-mangling, fireball-detonating screeching pedestal-mounted boondoggles?

beng

Maybe instead of a single overhung bearing, they need to go to a double-bearing — a bearing on both sides of the rotor-hub.

Another bearing or a larger bearings increases friction and kills overall efficiency, what is needed is a better material to make the bearings out of which is likely to be prohibitively expensive.

To answer some of the commenters who seem to think that technical evolution will make wind farms ‘viable’.
This will _never_ be the case, given the original energy source, i.e. wind, is so unpredictable and variable; the law of economics will weigh so heavily against wind that it will never be picked as an energy source compared to more reliable or ‘on demand’ energy sources.
The only reason wind turbines are being put up is the subsidy to be collected. Without that wind turbine projects are quickly abandoned. This is therefore not about saving the planet, its all about collecting the monies.. Especially given the short life of wind turbines and their net ineffectiveness of energy production – any full cycle cost benefit analysis would mean they never get beyond the evaluation stage.
Also the act of subsidising to such a degree is a deterrent to real investments in R&D; it removes the whole market signal reward to encourage competition and real innovation. Why waste your profit margin when your risks & costs are so well covered?

James (Aus.)

Correct, ecoG.
Wind “farms” would be more accurately called subsidy “farms”. It is only the subsidies that give the wind companies any value at all.

Stephen Richards

BJ Hanssen (@BJHanssen)
August 26, 2014 at 3:54 am
You show a completelack of understanding of the problem which would take too long to explain to one whose thought processes lack the speed.
Think : suitable technology to invest in right now: Cost to the economies of the west while the east are gaining : Damage to the quality of life for all western countries and poor countries, etc.
I am not against renewables I’m against stupidity !!

Stephen Richards

People pay for coal brought to the power plant (and to pay the lease on the land). People pay for wind by bringing the collector, turbine, and power grid to the mountain ridge (and pay for the lease on the land).
Ric Werne: Don’t forget the pognon (french)

Stephen Richards

Watching the video is interesting because, here in Sw France, the gov want to put wind turbines in the middle of the forests. Did you see those flares coming away from the turbine ? Oh, and as in the US, the thurbine crimes are ignored. Normally, you must replant all the trees to cut down or cause to be cut down on a sperate piece of conserved land but that has been waved for the turbine companies.

Clovis Marcus

So the technology is not production ready and taxpayers and energy consumers are subsidising the testing to destruction of expensive hardware.
Seems fair /sarc

pissedman

There are tens of thousands of these machines out there, having a few with issues seems appropriate given the size and complexity. As far as the cost, pretty much EVERY technology required government to assist it getting started. When gas natural prices are higher wind actually starts to make economic sense. The EROI shows wind as one of the more competitive approaches. I also believe that they are under estimating the life of these machines, the typical life could probably be doubled or more, thus the EROI would be even more competitive.
Any issues typically only require a year or two to work out, I see no reason these machines would be any different than automobiles, which sometimes have new approaches that require some time to work out the bugs.

Michael 2

A reply remarkably similar to BJ’s.

Robert Austin

pissedman should change his/her handle to “pollyanna” to reflect the true character of the poster.

David Wells

Brinelling is the tip of the wind turbine iceberg that could be helped if they could find a lubricant able to avoid it being squeezed out at the lowest point of the arc when the shaft bearing stops rotating. As it stands there is no lubricant available now or likely to be available in the future because the load is immense the fluid technology just does not exist.
More critically as of now there are about 100,000 wind turbines across the planet which generate about 2% of the total global electricity demand and this has taken about 25+ years to achieve. As they only last about 20 years by the time another 100,000 are installed the first 100,000 will become obsolete, beyond repair or just flailing in the wind so will we ever get past wind ever generating more than 2%, I think not but for Siemens the pretence that we need more will keep them in business seemingly forever, the question is can culpable politicians continue to promote the myth laden propaganda whilst temperatures flat line and may even fall just one more harsh winter in Europe with frozen turbines across Germany may be enough to start the rot.
Germany burns the same volume of coal now as in 1970 in spite of spending Euros 600 billion on wind and solar, if they cant make it work then who can?

How many of the “100,000 wind turbines across the planet” are actually operational? The one thing I’ve noticed when driving through the Altamont Pass is how many of the multitudes of wind turbines are no longer operational. For the amount of power wind turbines generate I’ll bet we’ll find they require a lot more maintenance than than conventional means of generating power, and that maintenance costs a lot more, too.

A grille round each rotor might stop birds being killed?
[url]http://dailycaller.com/2014/05/01/bird-enthusiasts-to-sue-feds-for-allowing-wind-turbines-to-kill-eagles-for-30-years/[/url]

SAMURAI

BJ Hanssen (@BJHanssen) August 26, 2014 at 3:54 am
All energy production technology has technological limitations to be overcome. Internal combustion engines have been constantly improved since their inception simply to overcome known limitations of their design. Gearboxes, carburators and different engine geometries and mechanisms (2-stroke, 4-stroke etc) were early examples of leaps in technology to overcome existing issues.
==========================
BJ– You’re making a false equivalency. All new technologies improve through innovation, but throughout their life cycle, the technology is still superior to the alternative of not using it…
Wind/Solar are not viable technologies because other alternatives are far superior in every respect.
In a free-market economy, wind/solar would not exist except for specialized niche applications.
The only reason wind/solar are wastefully utilized at current levels is because of the $billions in government subsidies. Without these market distorting subsidies, wind/solar would be just be very niche-market technologies.

http://machinedesign.com/mechanical-drives/bearing-failures-cause-serious-problems-wind-turbines-there-are-solutions
Gearboxes in wind turbines, more than those in any other application, tend to fail prematurely. In fact, at some wind projects, up to half of all gearboxes fail within a few years.

Persistent problem: Axial cracking
Despite all the recent improvements, one major cause of gearbox-bearing failures is axial cracking, sometimes called white-etch cracking for the irregular white areas that appear when affected bearing surfaces are chemically etched and examined under micrographs. Axial bearing cracking consists of lengthwise cracks on the bearing’s inner ring along the roller path. The cracks form in gearboxes from all manufacturers, on turbines in disparate installations. For reasons that remain unclear, axial-cracking failures usually arise in bearings that support gears of the intermediate and high-speed stages.

In contrast, axial-cracking failures have only been observed for the last 20 or so years in just a few industries, so they aren’t fully understood — and GL calculations don’t factor for their effects. But axial-cracking failure is common. It happens at stress levels much lower than those that cause rolling-contact fatigue. Plus, it typically happens within the first couple years of turbine operation.
http://machinedesign.com/mechanical-drives/bearing-failures-cause-serious-problems-wind-turbines-there-are-solutions

ulickstafford
Your very good post at August 26, 2014 at 5:11 am says in total

BJHanssen commented as if wind technology was new and the issues will be sorted like issues with internal combustion engines.
This ignores the fact that wind energy is a very old technology – 14th century perhaps. It was abandoned in the 19th century in Holland for pumping water in favor of fossil fuels. I don’t believe the Dutch are reverting to windmills for land drainage.
Modern materials might improve wind energy slightly but will not overcome the fundamental faults – low energy density and variable wind speeds. This article highlights the difficulties of making massive windmills. Unless the design of windmills changes fundamentally it is difficult to see how it could ever become cost effective. I expect that by the time fossil fuels become scarce and rise in price improvements in nuclear energy (thorium, fusion?) and possibly solar will cause them to be preferred to wind.

Wind power is much older than you suggest.
Wind energy powered most of the world’s shipping for thousands of years. Primitive wind turbines powered pumps (notably in the Netherlands and England) and mills throughout Europe for centuries.
There are a number of types of wind turbines
They are divided into Vertical-Axis and Horizontal-Axis types.
Vertical-axis windmills to mill corn were first developed by the Persians around 1500BC, and they were still in use in the 1970’s in the Zahedan region. Sails were mounted on a boom attached to a shaft that turned vertically.
The technology had spread to Northern Africa and Spain by 500 BC.
Low-speed, vertical-axis windmills are still popular in Finland because they operate without adjustment when the direction of the wind changes. These inefficient Finnish wind turbines are usually made from a 200 litre oil drum split in half and are used to pump water and to aerate land.
Low speed vertical-axis windmills for water pumping and air compressing are commercially available.
The horizontal-axis wind turbine was invented in Egypt and Greece around 300 BC. It had 8 to 10 wooden beams rigged with sails, and a rotor which turned perpendicular to the wind direction.
This type of wind turbine later became popular in Portugal and Greece.
Around 1200 AD, the crusaders built and developed the post-mill for milling grain. The turbine was mounted on a vertical post and could be rotated on top the post to keep the turbine facing the wind. This post-mill technology was first adopted for electricity generation in Denmark in the late 1800’s.
The technology soon spread to the U.S. where it was used to pump water and to irrigate crops across the Great Plains.
During World War I, some American farmers rigged wind turbines to each generate 1 kW of DC current. Such wind turbines were mounted on buildings and towers.
On western farms and railroad stations, wind turbines for pumping water were between 6 and 16m high and had 2 to 3m diameter. With 15kmh wind speed, a 2m-diameter turbine operating a 60cm diameter pump cylinder could lift 200 litres of water per hour to a height of 12m. A 4m diameter turbine could lift 250 litres per hour to a height of 38m.
Clearly, there are niche markets for wind turbines in some remote locations to this day where e.g. water needs to be pumped. But wind turbines were abandoned for most uses when the greater energy intensity in fossil fuels became available to do work by use of the steam engine.
Wind turbines are ancient technology which originated 1500 years before Christ, was developed for electricity generation in the 1800s, but was generally abandoned in favour of the superior steam engine.
Richard

DaveW

I’m looking out my back door and across the paddock at the moment at a metal windmill (8-10 m high) that is used to pump water into a cattle trough. Perhaps out of nostalgia, but more likely frugality, the grazier rescued and refurbished the windmill from another property where, until recently, there was no alternative and affordable source of power. It has 20 blades each about 2m long and other than greasing the bearings (a somewhat difficult and dangerous job), seems to need no maintenance. I doubt that the windmill new would be cost effective compared to a diesel or electric pump, but it is certainly less noisy and hasn’t killed a single bird as far as I can tell.

Wind turbines are ancient technology which originated 1500 years before Christ, was developed for electricity generation in the 1800s, but was generally abandoned in favour of the superior steam engine.

Richard, you are close. But your words are more accurately
Wind turbines are ancient technology which originated 1500 years before Christ, were adapted for low voltage, low amperage, single-farm, single-family, simple-circuit electricity generation in the early 1900-1920’s, and were immediately and completely abandoned in favour of the superior steam engine and central power generation as soon as the power lines could be brought to each farm.

Windmills can pump water from shallow depths, can generate a little bit of electricity over limited periods of time. They DO work, and ARE a good idea IF – and ONLY IF – you have no other choice. Condemning the world’s poor and hungry to wind turbines because elite liberal over-educated whites living in protected cities under air conditioning and heating from cenralpower plants with centrally-pumped purified and sterilized water running in steel pipes from electrically-driven pumps is merely condemning those poor to an early death.
So the liberal over-educated but guilty elites can “feel better” about climate change.