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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Our Future? Wind Farms Forced To Shut When Wind Blows

Barack Obama has staked the energy future of this country on wind energy:

"Some say" Obama is obsessed with wind energy:
Obama's speech: There's a pipe spewing a gazillion gobs of oil into the gulf, so let's build more windmills
As with Obama's dream for socialized health care, Britain has been there, done that, and the results are not good.

As reported by The Telegraph, Firms paid to shut down wind farms when the wind is blowing:

Energy firms will receive thousands of pounds a day per wind farm to turn off their turbines because the National Grid cannot use the power they are producing.

Critics of wind farms have seized on the revelation as evidence of the unsuitability of turbines to meet the UK's energy needs in the future. They claim that the 'intermittent' nature of wind makes such farms unreliable providers of electricity.

The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.

The electricity cannot be stored, so one solution – known as the 'balancing mechanism' – is to switch off or reduce the power supplied.

Sure, pursue everything, including wind energy.

But to think that wind will replace carbon-based fuels as a primary energy source is, well, words, just words.

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  1. I don't think the UK grid situation is the same as the US grid as far as wind energy goes. But it does show the fact that wind power is highly seasonal tending to be most productive in the spring and fall. When Energy usage is at its lowest.

    It also high lights the fact that we currently have no way store the gigwalts of energy needed to run our homes other than to make it at we need it. Wind is useful for pugging holes but it will never be able to replace coal, nuclear, hydroelectric power.

  2. Wind power merely shifts the vulnerabilities of the US Energy situation. Depending on whose approach you use, wind power requires large "batteries" (and I put "" to indicate that they are not batteries in the convention sense) and most importantly, with minerals that are located in such regional islands of tranquility like Democratic People's Republic of the Congo and The Congo.

    I think, like many energy items, it has potential to help create a framework for US energy independence. However, in of itself, it is fairly useless. Without batteries, it is incredibly inclement. With batteries, it seems to merely shift the focus of our weakness. In any event, I don't see it producing more than 5% of our power in the best scenario.

  3. Kind of reminds me of the efficiency of the wind turbines in Minnesota that froze solid last winter and thus produced zero energy, at considerable expense, of course.

  4. I think people forget that we can also shift demand so that things which would at other times be too expensive can be done when the "excess" energy is available. Water purification, salt-water conversion and a whole range of things can use this energy rather than trying to store it which is very wasteful since the conversion rate in and out is pretty poor.

    The big problem here is we have small minds looking at big problems and trying to fit them into the current state of things. Kind of like the manure problem of NYC in 1900.

    Rather than consider that the energy could be used elsewhere, everyone seems to be thinking we will just keep doing what we do now. When has that ever been the case with humanity?


  5. Problems With Green Energy

    This link collects some of the practical problems with green energy, especially wind power.

    Rencently, Spain has realized that it is killing its economy by subsidizing wind power.

    The Zapatero administration recently acknowledged that the “green economy” must be abandoned, lest they risk Spain becoming Greece.

    An independent study found that Spain’s “green economy” program removed 2.2 jobs for every job “created” by the state. The government report does not directly confirm this. Instead, the government figures show even greater job-losses

  6. Roger Anderson:
    "The big problem here is we have small minds looking at big problems and trying to fit them into the current state of things...

    Rather than consider that the energy could be used elsewhere, everyone seems to be thinking we will just keep doing what we do now. When has that ever been the case with humanity?"

    Another problem that I see is (don't laugh) the vocabulary. My own little crusade is to remind the people around me (to their occasional annoyance, I'm sure) that the word "alternative" is for the most part inappropriate. Your personal windmill on your boat or house...those are alternative sources of energy. But the giant wind farms (or large 'green' sources except hydro...that is dams) that feed into the grid are supplemental, not alternative sources.

    Using the term 'alternative' has caused many people to believe that it is a matter of simply choosing something different...like a hairstyle or a route driven to work.

    So I remind people that on a national level it should be referred to as supplemental energy while on a personal level it can more accurately be described as alternative. And here in sunny Florida I need only remind people that hanging out laundry to dry is the simplest most obvious alternative to using coal to do same the same thing. But as you said, Roger, people like to think that they can keep doing the same things they're doing now and someone else will do the hard work.

    BTW, I love using the clothes dryer as an example to self-described 'greens'. Few that I encounter are willing to give up the convenience of that 5000 Watt monster when the obvious 'alternative' is so readily available.

  7. I think the problem of the "alternative" energy fad is self-limiting. You can't use alternative power to provide more than around 15% of a grids total baseline power before it begins to bring the entire grid down.

    Providing electricity isn't like pumping water. You just can't create the electricity, push it into the lines and forget about. Power grids have to balanced. For every source, you have to have a balancing load and vice versa. When either a large load or a large source goes off line, the entire grid becomes unbalanced and collapses. This is what causes widespread blackouts.

    To maintain the balance of the grid, every grid has around a 10% backup capacity that can be brought online within an hour or so. This is called the "spin reserve." Also, included are the backup generators of large facilities that can operate standalone for several hours.

    Right now, alternative power only works at all because grid operators are constantly juggling the grids balance by rapidly bringing non-alternative power sources on line to catch the shortfalls of the alternative sources. (The cost of doing so is also the major subsidy.) However, the grid only has so much backup. Once the amount of power provided to a grid by alternative sources is larger than the backup, then the failure of alternative sources will trigger large scale blackouts. It will do so repeatedly.

    The Texas grid has the highest availability of alternative power of any grid in North America. In Feb 2008, a sudden drop in wind speed across the entirety of West Texas caused an 80% drop in wind power supplied electricity in under an hour. Only by kicking off thousands of standalone facilities was a state wide blackout averted.

    At that time wind provided 6% of power to the Texas grid. Today, it provides 9%. If the same weather conditions occurred today, it would almost certainly take down the grid.

    The success of the alternative fad is its own downfall. To bad its going to do a lot damage in the meantime.

  8. Obama's myopia needs correction. Solar energy seems to have got the shaft.

    As for those turbines - they can be dangerous. In Western New York they are installing them because we are in one of few really good "wind belts." However, they contract with land owners to install them, who will maintain them?

    We are also in a major migratory bird flight path and so you can imagine...

    In winter, those things throw off patches of ice that can maim or kill.

    They are noisy.

    They are ugly

    They waste space.

    Obama - wake up and smell the distaste for you and your ideas.