The False Promise of Wind Energy

B14283 / Wed, 5 Apr 2006 12:43:51 / Environment

That windmills retain a mystical popularity among their supporters, is truly a triumph of hope over substance, not to mention unawareness of hidden costs and poor performance data.

There is a huge amount of information now available regarding wind energy from around the United States and Europe. It’s not good news.

It is past time that energy agencies, utilities, and elected officials use the data before building anymore of them and ripping off the rate payers.

Reasonable people expect energy agencies to learn these lessons from around the world, just as they expect them to provide low cost reliable electrical energy.

Source

The power of the wind is promoted as an alternative method of meeting electricity demands. The implication is that it requires virtually no other energy source but free and non polluting “wind”.

There are a number of drawbacks that persuade against its development: frequently it is windy when not needed, calm when electrical demands are greatest, and wind power can be only a local or regional and minor electrical contributor at best.

Because of inefficiencies relative to traditional baseline energies and high development and transmission costs, it is unrealistic to assume wind power can replace current energies or be used as a source of energy to process other alternative energies such as ethanol or hydrogen.

Perhaps its best positive feature is that wind turbines can be constructed relatively quickly. At worst, wind power is yet another energy sink requiring more energy to develop and maintain a site and to deliver its energy than the energy derived from it.

In conclusion, the capital invested in wind commerce would lead to a more sustainable future using modern efficient coal technologies.

Source

Department of Energy Wind Powering America

Policy Comments on Point Petre Commercial Wind Turbine Generating Plant

Peace,

terrible bad average good great

RECENT COMMENTS

Wind turbines are great for small towns in isolated windy areas (like mountains zones).

Yet when the enrgy demand grows and (due to the fact only a few of major cities are placed in windy areas) you need to transport that energy across large distances (adding the obvious loss of power) then wind power is a bitch.

The only solution (and a great one) for mass production of wind energy is to place the turbines in an atmospheric level, like 10000 meters or more.

But then you can kiss airplanes goodbye

TheHyperT @ 04/05/06 13:22:11

Hey, locally grown, locally consumed. What’s with this transporting over long distances? You mean as in giant monopoly corporations?

Chickenma1 @ 04/05/06 14:23:50

I like the possibility of a “Buckminster Fuller” idea where each house would be self-sustaining as much as possible. With that in mind, a house should have its own wind turbine and generate the electricity it needs. I know, not all places where people live have enough wind. But with storage batteries charged up when wind is available perhaps most locations would be ok. I am not aware of any place with no wind.

Perhaps I’m simple minded here but I just like the idea. And I see this for personal homes; businesses could still be on a traditional power grid. The energy demand
on a traditional power grid would go way down if all homes were self-generating.

FOXP2 @ 04/05/06 14:24:51

No, Foxp2 you’re on the money brother, I’m in the process of investing some work into building a self sufficient minifarm to house family and such, it’ll basically be a small shaolin style temple with power, farming, a little livestock (I know how to tend them, thankfully, even if I’m a geek before a farmer) and a full water purification system and sewage reclaiming and reuse system (it might amaze you but there are fields in China that have been used non stop for thousands of years without them going barren like ours do up here… why? Hmm let me think, they use HUMAN FECES!!! yep, that “dirty” stuff we can’t stand. Amazingly it seems they realized millenia ago, that all that goes into and comes out of you, is meant to return to the natural cycle, much as you do when you get afflicted with that rather terminal condition known as “death”.

Just a thought on self sufficiency.

khyeron @ 04/05/06 14:58:35

Khyeron – Good luck with your project. It was Buckminster Fuller who was right on the money.
Those homes he designed and tried to manufacture were cool: I wish I had one.
Ever seen one? I saw pictures. They looked like a flying saucer. The aluminum
shell was made by an aircraft company. Too bad the business failed.

FOXP2 @ 04/05/06 15:23:34

I love the concept and have looked into it myself.

Michigan now insists that the power company pays you if you produce more electricity than you consume.

I live in an area that has sufficient wind because we are located close to the southern shore of Lake Superior and I live on fairly high terrain.

Trouble lies in the capitol investment for a system that would generate sufficient power for our needs and provide enough electricity to maintain a surplus with the utility.

A system capable of providing our electrical needs dependably would run $35,000 or so. Financed for 15 years at about $350.00 a month. Our electricity runs about $.08 a kilowatt hour so our light bill only averages about $80.00 a month.

It would cost at least $250.00 a month more to have wind power than to live without it because the utility only pays back about $.03 per kilowatt hour that they buy back. It would simply not be economically viable to do on a small scale with high quality commercially available equipment.

Bergey Windpower

GWHunta @ 04/05/06 15:32:03

Then again, you have states like South Dakota (where I am, by God’s curse, forced to live for another year) that have more than abundant wind. Further, the infrastructure for a regional grid (ND, NE, SD, etc) is willing to be financed to a great extent by these broke, sparse states.

What’s the hold up?

The big energy companies trying to exploit the uranium under the Black Hills, as well as Big Energy’s insistence on “remaining competitive.” We know from their words that “competitive” simply means sapping the last little drop of oil out of the ground, and taking us back to the 19th century to coal reliance.

Simply put, it ain’t happening b/c Big Energy doesn’t want to put the resources into it.

gothlaw @ 04/05/06 15:53:22

it ain’t happening b/c Big Energy doesn’t want to put the resources into it

Yes, but that doesn’t stop the idea put forth above where individuals could become relatively energy self-sufficient (some people are even working on “homemade” turbines). The “wind farm” angle is a bad idea compared to localized and individual production. Getting rid of the grid is the best case scenario because it eliminates many of the problems of a centralized, monopolized power source subject to demand strains and growth needs. Many problems with home turbines remain though.

sisyphus @ 04/05/06 16:03:51

GW, I looked at that site. Yeah, it’s expensive. But I think it’s like any new technology that is very expensive at first. Just look at computers: in the 1950s some guy said that he could see the need for maybe 5 computers in the whole world. They were big and expensive and, well, you know how it all turned out.

I think one of the roles for government is to see the potential benefits to society and subsidize the R&D. Make money available to scientists and technologists so they can come up with the needed break-throughs. I’m happy to see my tax money used for productive purposes (Hubble Space Telescope, etc.). So I’d like to see advances in wind technology that would eventually bring the cost down and make it appealing for people to convert their homes.

I guess I should send a note to those Bergey Windpower people and ask how come some kind of wire mesh can’t be put around the wind turbine blades so birds don’t get killed. I’ve read about birds getting slaughtered at wind farms. I guess it’s just not cost effective at this point.

FOXP2 @ 04/05/06 16:12:00

It’s still not reliable, constant power. No technology will ever make the wind blow steadily and constantly at any one location. It could be used to pipe power back into the grid when the wind is blowing, but I would not regard it to be a viable sole source of power.

Snark @ 04/05/06 16:22:04

You mean as in giant monopoly corporations?

No, I mean as “I’m a fucking yuppie and I dun wanna let my apt. in NYC to live in some rural windy area”, that kind of problem.

Most of the world cities (as in the most important ones) were there before the electricity was invented, and when oil runs out people living in these cities will have only 2 options:

-Leave their expensive real state and go to a new zone were energy can be obtained easily and enviromentaly.

-Or stay were they are, burn coal and wait to die of cancer in their trendy apts.

Now, since people wont listen to the cancer part (syndrome of denial) and they dont want to leave their shit behind, you can bet they will go for the coal option, thus leaving more to be repaired in the future (if we can…….)

Small cities, with a population no bigger than 100000 are the answer. While wind alone cant do it, a combination of that with other renwables such as garbage metane, biofuels, hydrogen and fuel cells would help to mantain an stable suppy of electricity.

Obsviously you have to kiss goodbye big everyday use cars, decorative lighting, theme parks, etc…

I think one of the roles for government is to see the potential benefits to society and subsidize the R&D

If the govnt was that generous with subsides then we wont have this problem. The reality is that as long as the govnt works for big oil we wont see any funds for renewables from them.

And only like 0.00001% of your taxes helped fund the hubble project, the rest went for the new homes of corporative executives and rotten food for the guys in irak.

TheHyperT @ 04/05/06 18:16:13

TheHyperT, yeah I agree with your points. I get idealistic sometimes. real world government can be a bummer. And I also agree that even if we had alternatives we would have cut back on electric usage: simpler lives. That wouldn’t be so bad. We don’t need no stinkin’ theme parks.

FOXP2 @ 04/05/06 18:30:04

Deleted dupe.

Pakeha @ 04/05/06 18:41:23

Don’t be a simpleton.

There is no simple answer to our energy problem. Don’t look for one.

If the problem with wind power is that it damages the environment, then this would be worthy of an article.

A statement that wind power won’t solve everything is an industry trick to make people not like wind power. Wind power is good, but it is not the answer.

It is part of the answer.

What do you call someone who shills against rather than for?

Pakeha @ 04/05/06 18:41:26

What do you call someone who shills against rather than for?

Pragmatic

If the problem with wind power is that it damages the environment, then this would be worthy of an article.

A tremendous amount of capitol and energy goes into the materials, manufacture and construction of wind turbines and their support systems. A considerable amount of pollution and environmental damage is created by these processes as well.

I’m neither pro nor con, simply interested in taking a reasonable and open-minded approach to the issue.

Based on an examination of the facts, I posted an informed position to spawn interest and further debate.

There is no simple answer to our energy problem. Don’t look for one.

That isn’t a revelation to anyone reading or contributing to this thread

Don’t be a simpleton.

That’s sound advice.

Most people believe wind power is a great idea whose time has come. The truth is it’s an expensive drop in the energy bucket at best, and a false hope creating boondoggles in many cases.

Peace,

GWHunta @ 04/05/06 20:01:31

Wind and solar should be able to run alot of your daily needs in your house if you can handle the initial investment… I’ve been doing some reading into geothermic furnaces as well, and I must say it’s all looking plausable for when I finally build a house…

truthcansuck @ 04/06/06 06:21:11

Geothermal exchange heat pump

Excellent cost effective technology.

We depend upon wood heat in our home for heat in cold weather. Locally grown and carbon cycle neutral.

We only use a 15,000 BTU natural gas heater for backup. We also have done away with incandescent bulbs and replaced them with much higher efficiency fluorescents.

The next step will be a rudimentary passive solar water pre-heater for summertime use.

Good luck in all your endeavors.

Peace,

GWHunta @ 04/06/06 14:05:11

We depend upon wood heat in our home for heat in cold weather. Locally grown and carbon cycle neutral.

I know a guy who uses tamarisk wood for this purpose. The shit’s an invasive tree/shrub that grows wild along just about every Western river, and he just goes and hacks it down and burns it. It grows like a weed, nobody cares if you knock a few down, and it’s got a high oil content and burns hot. Scrapwood is also pretty good for this purpose, and equally cheap.

Earthship technology, and similar ideas, is also pretty cool. The key, I think, is efficiency and recycling. The ability to efficiently use energy and materials, and recycle what you can onsite- using graywater to water a greenhouse, for example- is a great idea.

Snark @ 04/06/06 15:14:50

Agreed. The gray water from our house waters the several apple trees and one cherry in the backyard. Only the toilet is plumbed to the septic system. We don’t get enough high quality apples to store since we don’t do pesticides to keep the bugs and worms out, but we get some eaters when they’re in season and even marginal apples have a market here as bait for deer and bear hunters.

On an average year we do 20-25 bushels. My wife usually cans several cases of applesauce since you can cut around any defects in the apples and she’s baking apple tarts throughout the fall.

Not an actual business or huge part of our diet, but we’ve been here almost 19 years and it’s become an annual tradition and ties us to the land. The trees seem to thrive on just the grey water and we haven’t ever fertilized.

My favorite time is the when the trees flower in June. The buzzing of the bees is audible in the house and the fragrance fills the place on those few precious days.

Peace,

GWHunta @ 04/06/06 17:57:46

Hi, GW. Thanks for the pm. There’re some good thoughts on this thread, and some that haven’t been thought of. The obvious (to me) solution for hi-rises is waterless toilets that deposit into a methane collector that could then heat the building.

I don’t mind you being heavy, it sparks good thinking. And since most of us are kind of contrarian anyway, your doomsday gloom naturally sparks sunny optimism – whereas if you’d said everything would be fine, everyone would argue that with you. 🙂

Chickenma1 @ 04/10/06 21:21:44

P.S. Nice pics – looks like a nice place.

Chickenma1 @ 04/10/06 21:23:09

It’s a great place. Some call it God’s Country. Bush came here during the 2004 election campaign and declared it Bush/Cheney country.

Some would sell their souls to live here because of the sparse population, abundant wilderness, clean water and air. Since some are willing to do so, selling your soul is now the going rate.

Sometimes no Peace,

GWHunta @ 04/12/06 19:58:49

Where do you live? (pm me, i’m in and out lately)

khyeron @ 04/29/06 05:28:35

I had the rare pleasure yesterday to examine a couple components (rotor blades) of a huge wind turbine in transit.

I didn’t have a tape measure to get precise dimensions but would estimate these blades at around 100 feet in length, giving the assembled rotor a dimension of over 200 feet in diameter.

Truly a giant among wind turbines.

GWHunta @ 01/28/07 17:52:31

No technology will ever make the wind blow steadily and constantly at any one location.

Ha !.. The Internet brought us Izzy did it not ?

JustLurking @ 01/28/07 18:04:56

I see more promise in small, household wind turbines to feed back into the grid than in giant utility wind farms.

Snark @ 08/10/07 15:07:06

If only turbines grew on trees eh?

Phoenix2008 @ 08/10/07 16:00:26

I see more promise in small, household wind turbines to feed back into the grid than in giant utility wind farms.

I see potential in each, largely because of the utility of scale.

Smaller turbines for the production of residential electricity used in concert with direct solar photo voltaic systems in areas where there is sufficient wind resource to make using this technology cost effective and large commercial systems mostly offshore utilizing the electrical energy for the production of hydrogen to bolster dwindling reserves of natural gas.

The principal downside to wind power is reliability, either base load supplementation or energy storage systems being necessary with the wind power produced part of a hybrid system of energy production.

While existing battery technology can easily meet small scale residential needs, hydrogen as an energy carrier, easily mixed with natural gas and stored in pressurized underground reserves may turn out to be the ideal medium to store excess commercially produced energy while winds blow strong and be burned later in standard turbines to provide power in reserve when winds are slack.

By utilizing existing technology and energy systems to make the transition towards sustainability, we can achieve our energy goals in the most cost effective and environmentally friendly manner.

Peace,

GWHunta @ 08/10/07 18:12:38

I remain personally unconvinced that hydrogen can be stored and transported safely enough to be used as a fuel or energy storage buffer, but that’s just me.

Snark @ 08/11/07 09:20:16

Which is exactly why I recommend mixing commercially produced hydrogen with the existing natural gas supply, where there is already an existing and robust storage and distribution infrastructure.

Peace,

GWHunta @ 08/12/07 15:48:29

That wouldn’t solve a thing. Hydrogen would behave just as it does when it’s pure; it’d still leak out of the many fittings and joins in the pipes, it’d still seep directly through the walls of tanks and pipes, and it’d still make materials it’s in contact with brittle. Admixtures of gases don’t change the essential properties of the molecules in question, unlike dissolving a solid or gas into liquid.

That storage and distribution architecture is set up to handle large hydrocarbon molecules, not tiny hydrogen pairs. You pump hydrogen into that infrastructure, I don’t care what you mix it with, and it’s gone long before it reaches the end user – never mind that the infrastructure itself would be damaged if you tried.

No offense, but it wouldn’t work, and it’s a transparently unworkable idea. You’ve got some great ideas and some very bad ones, and this is one of the latter.

Snark @ 08/12/07 20:02:42

I see more promise in small, household wind turbines to feed back into the grid than in giant utility wind farms.

The same goes for solar, and in some cases microhydro.

bodo @ 08/13/07 02:51:16

The same goes for solar, and in some cases microhydro.

Even geothermal; I’ve heard of geothermal heat pumps that essentially function as household thermal buffers. They’re not deep – maybe a thousand feet at most – but they circulate a coolant that transports heat down when it’s hotter at the surface than at depth and transports heat up when it’s colder at the surface. It essentially utilizes the terrestrial subsurface as thermal mass, so a building equipped with one of these systems behaves similarly to an adobe house. It’s pretty cool. A system like that would really even out a house’s power demand; air con and heating would be almost unnecessary if you were in a temperate climate. Maybe you’d just have a fireplace or something for cold periods.

Snark @ 08/13/07 10:02:37

I’ve been touting the advantages of geothermal for a very long time. In the conversion of electrical energy to usable heat a home can gain between 2 and 3 units of heat energy for each one expended to drive the heat pump.

Residential or commercial geothermal ground loops need not be a thousand feet either. Most closed loop systems are rarely placed much deeper than basement level, just a few feet below the normal frost line is sufficient and the process isn’t a lot different than the placement of a drain field for a standard septic system.

GWHunta @ 08/13/07 10:14:35

That storage and distribution architecture is set up to handle large hydrocarbon molecules, not tiny hydrogen pairs. You pump hydrogen into that infrastructure, I don’t care what you mix it with, and it’s gone long before it reaches the end user – never mind that the infrastructure itself would be damaged if you tried.

No offense, but it wouldn’t work, and it’s a transparently unworkable idea. You’ve got some great ideas and some very bad ones, and this is one of the latter.

That the electrical energy produced mechanically by the wind turbines is used to
produce hydrogen which is subsequently chemically bound to hydrocarbon products (natural gas liquids) that are produced and currently separated at the well head to bolster the natural gas supply and distributed through the existing infrastructure is neither unworkable nor inefficient.

Large amounts of hydrogen produced commercially are currently used to bind with sulfur, scrubbing this element from crude oil in the refinery process.

There is a growing demand for hydrogen as an elemental additive to thin the extremely heavy crude oil derived from the tar sands so that this crude can be shipped via pipeline prior to being refined.

Currently there exists two separate infrastructures for most of the “gas” produced at the wellhead.

Natural gas, lighter than normal air, is distributed very efficiently by pipeline throughout the United States from the well head to the end user. This is the most energy efficient, cost effective and safe mode of delivery.

Propane, heavier than air, is also piped from the wellhead and stored underground in huge bulk reserves, but is then transported primarily by rail car and trucks throughout the country in liquid form.

A far less energy efficient, expensive and more dangerous mode of transportation for this energy.

By chemically binding the hydrogen produced by large commercial wind turbines placed mostly offshore, or in the windier regions of the plains where most of the natural gas and propane is produced, the propane portion of the “gas” and other “gas” liquids (butane, etc.) can be converted to natural gas and “mixed” (added) directly within the existing natural gas storage and distribution infrastructure, bolstering the total energy supplied and increasing the energy efficiency and economy of the entire “gas” industry.

Peace,

GWHunta @ 08/13/07 10:42:41

You’ve got some great ideas and some very bad ones, and this is one……..

P.S.

Thanks for the acknowledgment.

GWHunta @ 08/13/07 10:58:59

That the electrical energy produced mechanically by the wind turbines is used to
produce hydrogen which is subsequently chemically bound to hydrocarbon products (natural gas liquids) that are produced and currently separated at the well head to bolster the natural gas supply and distributed through the existing infrastructure is neither unworkable nor inefficient.

Ah. That’s what wasn’t clear; it seemed as if you were referring strictly to mixing the gases as a gaseous solution, then piping them into the system unmodified.

Snark @ 08/13/07 11:21:04

My mistake for making the leap without a better detailed explanation.

The points you make regarding the use and distribution of hydrogen remain somewhat valid, though these issues can be managed with existing technology (though still in development) as pure hydrogen is currently being used in prototype fuel cell vehicles and elemental hydrogen has been produced, stored and used commercially for many decades, though sometimes with catastrophic consequences. (Hindenburg)

Peace,

GWHunta @ 08/13/07 13:02:02
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