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US Dept. of Energy Wants Bigger Wind Energy Ideas

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-wonder-what-brought-this-on dept.

Power 252

coondoggie writes "The Department of Energy wants to kick up the research and development of offshore wind projects as it looks to achieve its goal of producing 20% of the country's electricity from wind farms by 2030. The DOE Wind Program is looking to focus on what it calls specific advanced technology, gigawatt-scale demonstration projects that can be carried out by partnerships with a wide range of eligible organizations and stimulate cost-effective offshore wind energy deployment in coastal and Great Lakes regions of the country. The agency is also looking for more research that can help address market barriers in order to facilitate deployment and reduce technical challenges facing the entire industry, as well as technology that will reduce cost of offshore wind energy through innovation and testing."

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Offshore wind farms (1, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32603898)

Geez, first we offshore our jobs, now our energy production. When will it end?

Re:Offshore wind farms (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32603970)

I'm just waiting for some Calamity to hit. I mean, Offshore drilling is an entirely different ballpark, but we've put a lot of research into that and we still mess it up.

I mean, how do these platforms cope with hurricanes? I've always wondered. I have a feeling that since a windmill will have most of its machinery above water level, it'll be more susceptible to high winds (which is the idea I know, but I mean twisting metal high winds)

Hydraulic Lifts Pull Them Down Into Water (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604030)

I'm just waiting for some Calamity to hit. I mean, Offshore drilling is an entirely different ballpark, but we've put a lot of research into that and we still mess it up.

I mean, how do these platforms cope with hurricanes? I've always wondered. I have a feeling that since a windmill will have most of its machinery above water level, it'll be more susceptible to high winds (which is the idea I know, but I mean twisting metal high winds)

Might seem counter intuitive but a 2007 article in Wired [wired.com] said:

Hurricanes could be a problem, so they decided to outfit their windmills with hydraulic lifts scavenged from oil-industry machinery; the system would lower the turbines in the event of a squall.

I think under the water is the safest place during a hurricane. Oh, and the timing is too perfect so I cannot omit this paragraph:

But first they needed to secure government approval. Their first stop was the state of Louisiana, but the bayou bureaucrats rejected the proposal. “They saw us as competing with oil and natural gas,” Schoeffler recalls.

Perhaps Schoeffler should ask Louisiana now if it's alright for them to compete with offshore oil?

Re:Hydraulic Lifts Pull Them Down Into Water (2, Funny)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604176)

> I think under the water is the safest place during a hurricane.

North Dakota would also be a pretty safe place to ride out a hurricane.

HTH.HAND.

Re:Hydraulic Lifts Pull Them Down Into Water (2, Interesting)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605170)

Sadly, while North Dakota has the most potential for wind power in the US, its grid was built and designed by a bunch of Co-ops that were interested in getting power to farm houses. As such, it isn't sophisticated enough to be able to be able export any significant amount of power.

If they can upgrade their grid, then North Dakota could be a huge exporter of wind power.

Re:Hydraulic Lifts Pull Them Down Into Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604374)

Wow, that last part... As Bart Simpson would say, "The ironing is delicious."

"The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."

Re:Hydraulic Lifts Pull Them Down Into Water (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604792)

Perhaps Schoeffler should ask Louisiana now if it's alright for them to compete with offshore oil?

You can read that as "They wouldn't pay nearly the bribes the oil companies would pay".

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604038)

I'd think they handle a hurricane fairly well, and generate a shit tonne of power in the process ;)

Actually they probably get tossed around a bit, but the real key is that they don't install them in hurricane prone areas. Lots of research goes into placing them in areas that get consistent high winds but not gale force craziness.

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604218)

Windmills can only spin so fast before the inertial, or effective, force tears them apart! [youtube.com]

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604728)

The reason that one broke is because the blade-pitch control mechanism failed.

Believe it or not, million dollar windmills are designed by proper engineers who think about things like hurricanes.

Re:Offshore wind farms (2, Informative)

Amouth (879122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604128)

For oil rigs.. they cap the well and disconnect the umbilical and move away from the well to weather out the storm - most of them are quite large and handle well but they don't want to be static during a storm.

as for Wind farms - the high waves would be more worrying.. during high winds the blades turn into the wend and then adjust so that they don't catch the wind. as for taking the impact of the high waves that is an engineering question - as it has to take that impact no way of avoiding it.

Over all hurricanes would just disrupt power generation during the time the storm was passing though - same as it disrupts oil & gas production.

taking a strong storm out at sea is a lot easier than taking it near the coast.. you don't have the flying debris and you have plenty of room to move, It is normal practice when a storm is to make landfall for larger ships to go out to sea to weather the storm - it's been like that for just about for ever..

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604284)

Well, it seems the worst that can happen is that the platforms could be destroyed. Not a huge loss, compared with a destroyed oil platform.

Hurricanes... (3, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604336)

Wind turbines constantly adjust their blade angles to match the wind. The idea is to keep them turning at a constant rate no matter what the wind speed is (i.e. they *don't* spin faster in high winds then in low winds). In a hurricane they just turn the blades to minimum angle and keep right on generating.

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

rgviza (1303161) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604514)

Another issue is that offshore windmills are much more easily attacked by an enemy. If we are generating 20% of our electricity using them and we get attacked by an enemy, we could be crippled on the coasts if they took out the windmills, which could be done very easily with submarines and torpedoes.

This is unlikely now, but much of the world views the US (and I can understand why) as being on a downward spiral, and we have a LOT of enemies. If we continue to weaken our economic and political position in the world it won't be more than 100 years before someone tries it.

Re:Offshore wind farms (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604614)

I think that if 20% of your electricity was generated in a green manner you wouldn't have such a dependancy on oil, so you could pull out of the middle east, and you wouldn't have such a bad political position.

Re:Offshore wind farms (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604886)

Oil doesn't produce much electricity in North America. Gas, coal and nuclear does.

The United States would be better off pushing out 20% more electricity production with fission

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

josecanuc (91) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604930)

The U.S. really doesn't import much coal from the Middle East. Coal is what powers most electric-generation plants in the U.S.

I agree, though, that it's good to reduce our energy sources based on fossil fuels. The U.S. really needs to greatly beef up it's electrical transmission and distribution system, then (or concurrently) can move toward a larger base of 100% electric automobiles.

Also at issue is that transferring large amounts of electricity over long distances causes a relatively significant loss of energy through resistance (and similar losses through inductive loading) of the transmission lines themselves. The idea that we can just stick a bunch of generation out in the windy areas where "no one" lives and haul it all over the country isn't as good as somehow trying to generate it closer to where it's consumed, to reduce transmission losses.

I mean, part of being eco-friendly, or green, or whatever the term is today, is not just alternative sources, but a reduction in use and increase in efficiency.

You're going to have transportation losses with any energy source (petrol/diesel gets pumped through non-frictionless pipes or carried in trucks that consume petrol/diesel; resistive/inductive losses with electricity, regardless of whether nuclearl, wind, coal, etc.)

I know N.I.M.B.Y. is a strong force against having electrical generation geographically closer to consumption, but wouldn't that be cheaper in the long run than installing and maintaining aluminum cables (with losses) or superconducting cables (with not as much loss, but higher costs in manufacturing and maintenance)? At some point, it's up to the individual person in the U.S. to decide whether the future will be better or worse than current and take a role in the local community to attempt to do the right thing for the good of that community.

Re:Offshore wind farms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604632)

You say distributed wind mills are unsafer against attacks than the Hoover Dam and nuclear power plants? Think again.

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604748)

'more easily attacked'

as opposed to say, the Saudi's simply turning off their pumps?

We can't remotely control that, but I'm pretty sure we can protect our own coastal waters pretty damned well.

Re:Offshore wind farms (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604012)

china will probably end up building them anyway

Re:Offshore wind farms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604664)

I know you're being silly, but you already did that ages ago. The USA imports more than half of its oil from other countries (you use ~20 million barrels/day and produce ~7 million/day). For example, you import more oil from Canada than you do from Saudi Arabia, and that's just oil. The amount of energy imported from Canada to the USA in the form of natural gas, oil, and hydroelectric power is truly *enormous*. It's one of the biggest energy transfers in the world. From what I can recall, only the transfer of natural gas from Russia to Europe compares with it in scale. And, of course, the USA imports energy from plenty of other countries.

So, "offshoring" energy production has a long tradition in the USA. Producing more domestically is a good idea, because you're *way* undersupplied when taking oil into account. It constrains your whole economy, which is generally very energy inefficient in terms of energy versus GDP measures compared to, say, most of the European countries. That being said, I live in Canada and we're more than happy to take your money for the product, which helps to keep our own energy-inefficient economy going (we aren't any better than the US and are also way behind Europe). Unfortunately our non-renewable resources are going to dwindle eventually just like yours have already. Oil production peaked in the USA in the 1970s. When ours peaks, we're going to face the same sort of energy constraints (conventional oil already peaked in Canada in the 1980s, and oil production in total it isn't in decline now only because of the oil sands). We might not have much to export some day. At which point perhaps all bets are off in terms of how it's going to play out. Heating isn't exactly optional in Canada, so we might get a little more selfish about selling energy resources at any price, and that wouldn't be nice to our neighbors, who might react badly to the situation. Canada's situation isn't unique as a net energy exporter.

To make a long story short, yes, please invest in more domestic US energy production. Don't spend all your money on cheap imports. They're only putting off the problem temporarily.

My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32603926)

There's over two hundred Z-750 windmills (the largest turbines made in the USA when they were put up in the 90s) on farmland in Minnesota along Buffalo Ridge [wikipedia.org] , my father helped pour the foundations for them. As far as I know [state.mn.us] (and Wikipedia state):

Xcel has contracted an additional three hundred megawatts of wind energy by 2010 and must obtain ten percent of its own electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Xcel is expected to increase its wind power contracts from 302 megawatts to one 1125 megawatts by 2010.

If you're worried about avian species, Wikipedia quotes two studies that found in seven months a death of 1.1 to 1.4 birds killed per windmill. Bats are higher but it's lower than bat deaths related to lighthouses, communication towers, tall buildings, power lines, and fences. So while unfortunate, it could probably be viewed as acceptable.

The advancements in turbine technology and infrastructure will always be needed but to answer the DOE's "Annual installations need to increase more than threefold." Why don't they just buy up a bunch of (relatively) cheap farmland in Minnesota? I think you can get away with negotiating the small plot of land they use and service roads through fields while still letting the bulk of the land be used for farming. Farmers already maneuver around sloughs that rise and fall with the water table. I don't know how the rights to offshore wind farms work or what the costs to permits are but it seems like you'd just have a strip of them so why not just do a huge block out in the middle of nowhere instead?

You can see which states really took off with wind power [wikimedia.org] , I don't know why you're highlighting coastal areas and the Great Lakes when Colorado and Texas have demonstrated an equally large potential.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (0, Flamebait)

electron sponge (1758814) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604024)

You can see which states really took off with wind power [wikimedia.org] , I don't know why you're highlighting coastal areas and the Great Lakes when Colorado and Texas have demonstrated an equally large potential.

Does the Bible say something about windmills being evil? Not much going on in the southeast according to that GIF.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604054)

Yes, it's in the Bible.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604200)

Does the Bible say something about windmills being evil? Not much going on in the southeast according to that GIF.

I can assure you the Bible has nothing literally against wind mills ... no more than anything else that requires a lot of science to build. I will, however, point out that oftentimes wind farms require state government subsidization to get started. I don't think Minnesota is any different from Texas (wow, never thought I'd say that) in the respect that the state government is mighty interested in magic cheap electricity to prime the economy. In fact, I don't have the numbers on hand but I'd bet most of the states in that GIF were taxing citizens on the logic that tax you pay now will make your energy cheaper in the future ... and also come up to snuff with regulations for renewable energy goals. You might agree with it, you might not. That's not what I'm trying to argue.

I will state, however, that the states in the Southeast are not particularly rich states, have a lower population to tax and their (predominantly Republican) governments tend to promise lower taxes. Well, you can write off wind subsidization then. Not to mention that Minnesota is hilariously flat and probably a better place to pour bases for wind mills than the everglades or Appalachians. Not too informed about the geography of those states but it helps that Minnesota is a carpenter's dream. I kinda gotta wonder what the hell South Dakota is doing but again, it's got a low population and probably has a slower economy. That's some prime prairie grassland I would imagine so if the federal government starts subsidizing alternative energy, I bet you'd see companies move in there and appeal to federal money.

It's not all perfect, either. The very wind farm I listed was installed by Kinitec out of California and their hydraulic lines froze last winter [venturebeat.com] . Gotta prepare for tornados, ice and antarctic temps if you wanna play ball there.

Religion don't have much to do with it, look at Texas lead the way.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604256)

I can assure you the Bible has nothing literally against wind mills

Much to William Blake's chagrin.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605008)

Texas leads the US in wind power right now. Minnesota is better for it than North Dakota or South Dakota, mainly because Minnesota is flatter than South Dakota, but South Dakota has more under construction than many states, and it's not because of subsidization or democrat vs republican, its more about NIMBY cultures.

Look at how long they've been fighting the off shore wind farms in Mass.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (2, Informative)

egamma (572162) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604896)

Does the Bible say something about windmills being evil? Not much going on in the southeast according to that GIF.

Sweetwater, Texas has one of the largest windfarms in the country. It stretches 40 miles to Abilene, Texas, which houses 3 Christian universities. This is pretty much the "buckle of the Bible belt", and there's plenty of wind turbines.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (4, Interesting)

ibpooks (127372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604140)

Why don't they just buy up a bunch of (relatively) cheap farmland in Minnesota?

Because it is almost impossible in the current legal climate to build the power lines from rural areas into the cities where the power is needed and can be sold at a price high enough to finance the project. There are a LOT of transmission line projects on drawing boards across the country all tied up in endless legal disputes and injunctions. There are complaints from environmental groups about lines going through wetlands, forests, and virtually any other habitat. Complaints from pseudoscience scaremongers about lines going through populated areas giving off "toxic radiation". Complaints from towns, villages, homeowners associations about nearby power lines decreasing property values. Endless permits, plans, documents, studies to upgrade the lines on existing right-of-ways. Every inch of the process is an uphill battle for the power companies, and a huge multi-hundred million dollar project can be held up or torpedoed by any judge in any district along the planned path of the line forcing expensive delays or re-designs. The few major lines that have been built in recent history have taken decades from the first plans to in-service and actually cost more money in legal costs than the cost entire planning, engineering and construction combined.

It is terribly frustrating for those of us in this industry. We know what needs to be done and many ways that it can be done, but our hands are tied.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (2)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604280)

BANANA: Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.

Well, There's One Way to Start (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604348)

Because it is almost impossible in the current legal climate to build the power lines from rural areas into the cities where the power is needed and can be sold at a price high enough to finance the project.

Okay so apart from that Buffalo Wind farm project, there's another one by Geronimo whereby they built nine Suzlon turbine windmills next to my hometown [geronimowind.com] (PDF) to produce enough electricity for 6,500 homes and that electricity goes to my hometown where there are ~9,500 residents.

That's nine windmills. Nine.

Let's say Minnesota is an ideal place and that you could maybe get that same energy from almost anywhere else in the country for 3 or 4 times the number of windmills. My question for you is simply whether or not you think small towns across the US would want nine to forty windmills next to their town so they could have cheap renewable power nearby? I know there are infrastructure concerns, I'm not suggesting you cut them off entirely from "the grid". I know there are startup costs. But if you're in the industry, you're telling me that's not a good business plan? I would imagine people would fall all over themselves to have something like that. And if it starts rolling on a large scale, you might have the larger cities considering setting aside nearby sections of land so that you don't have to have massive infrastructure put in for enough power to get through a forest, everglade or habitat.

It is terribly frustrating for those of us in this industry. We know what needs to be done and many ways that it can be done, but our hands are tied.

Oh, you don't have to tell me. In Minnesota, you have to go to a local specialist and get them to survey the area to verify there are no Native American burial mounds or potential artifact sites near where you are digging before you can even break the soil.

Re:Well, There's One Way to Start (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604874)

But if you're in the industry, you're telling me that's not a good business plan?

Actually no it isn't a good business plan, not financially at least. The problem is that the competing power sources, coal/natural gas/nuclear, don't have to pay for the effects of their emissions. As such the price they can offer power is much lower than renewable sources likely ever will be able to achieve.

Once you price in the costs of fossil fuel emissions and nuclear fuel storage for 1000 years, *then* renewable sources get better.

Where they really shine is more long term, when oil, and yes even uranium, starts to run out. Then the price of the fuel needed becomes prohibitive and renewable source pricing stays basically flat or even goes down.

Yes this is a Cap and Trade system, but its the only way to 'fairly' let renewable sources compete with our current sources. Of course we could just wait for the costs of fossil fuels to rise and then pay both higher prices and the massive investment in renewable at the same time. I'd rather start now and pay a bit more over time than a massive bill in the future.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

Kaboom13 (235759) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604412)

Seems to me the first step is designing a new high voltage power line that doesn't look like something out of a science gone horribly amok science fiction movie. I realize the when building these things they consider function over form, but the reality is the complete lack of aesthetics is a big factor in why people fight them so hard. They look like big industrial machinery, and in peoples minds that equates to scary and dangerous, especially from their comfy suburban house. Along I-4 here in Central Florida, near Disney World, there is a large transmission tower that is shaped to look like the iconic 3 circles Mickey Mouse design. They combined form and function in a way that turns an eyesore into an attraction.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (2, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604940)

I dunno, I guess it's a matter of taste. There are a few large wind farms in west Texas, and I find them quite beautiful. There's something majestic about a sea of giant windmills stretching off into the distance.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

Thagg (9904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604418)

If you're in the industry, I have often wondered about this, and would like to ask a question. There are plenty of extremely power-hungry industries that might well adapt to wind power. Think, say, of aluminum smelting. Right now, the big Aluminum companies site their plants near hydro power, but could there be a wind farm with an aluminum plant in the middle of it? They might vary the rate of production as the wind rises and falls, but if that is taken into account during the design of the plant it shouldn't be a devastating problem.

One could also, say, use wind energy to split water to make hydrogen, either for the hydrogen itself or to make ammonia as part of a fertilizer plant. Generate hydrogen when the wind blows.

With these in-site industries, you don't have to worry about long-distance transmission, or integrating the wind-power into the current electrical grid.

It's certainly possible that these energy-intensive industries are only 5% of the US need for electricity, in which case this doesn't make any sense...but I think it's likely more than that.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604928)

Coal is alot cheaper than wind at the moment. It just doesn't make sense economically without new subsidies, or carbon taxes.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (2, Insightful)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605074)

Right now, the big Aluminum companies site their plants near hydro power, but could there be a wind farm with an aluminum plant in the middle of it? They might vary the rate of production as the wind rises and falls, but if that is taken into account during the design of the plant it shouldn't be a devastating problem.

No, they can't. Aluminum smelters are near hydroelectric dams for a reason: enormous amounts of consistent, inexpensive energy. Wind generators can not provide this.

You can't easily stop or slowdown a smelt in the middle of performing it, we are dealing with enormous amounts of energy and molten metal salts [aluminumsm...rocess.com] . If there are huge inconsistencies in the power then the process can be very inefficient and possibly even dangerous.

Wind power is extremely variable and can only be used to supplement the base load of a power generation system. You can do some tricks like storing over-generation in the form of air pressure, capacitors, gravity systems, or flywheels but those can be expensive and complicated.

The better answer is nuclear. There are tons of designs for small-scale nuclear power generators, they can easily be built close to the site of power consumption, many of the designs are low-maintenence, it has a very favorable power-to-price ratio, and the power output is extremely consistent. This is the reason that aluminum smelters are also often located next to nuclear power plants.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604806)

Seems like there are two options:

1) Use a form of power generation that's decentralized and require everyone to come up with their own power.

2) Have all the decisions made by someone central who has the authority to push things through.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605122)

This is absolutely correct. To put it another way, the best land based wind corridors are in the Central US, but something like 73% of the population lives on the coast. The turbines aren't the expensive part, it's the transmission to market (power lines) over the vast distances that makes it an issue.

Also, offshore has several advantages over land based. The wind is stronger and more steady offshore, so you can build bigger turbines and they're more reliable (the wind doesn't always blow, so the land based ones need backups. Offshore ones need backups as well but the wind is more reliable). You're also closer to the vast majority of the population, so you severely reduce the infrastructure cost.

Research is nothing. The biggest impediment is the permitting process in the government. The Europeans figured it out already; the pre-permitted huge swaths of offshore real estate for wind farms and then the developers can just apply for an already permitted spot and put up the turbines. They've been building offshore farms for years there in this fashion and they have very few hurdles to cross because the permits are already done. If the DOE would just pre-permit a series of locations for wind farms, the developers will flock to those sites and you'll have windfarms going up very rapidly.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604420)

The other major issue with building offshore windmills/windfarms is the cost of servicing.

On land, you can drive/walk up to the windmill and as long as it's not storming, climbing it is no problem.

At sea, even the slightest bit of weather can make it unsafe to send the boat out.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604492)

Wind power will not be cost effective in the near future without massive subsidies.

I like shrimp, you fucker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604834)

Once you figure in the cost of killing everything in half the Gulf of Mexico for 50 years, wind power is going to look like a bargain.

Look at nuclear power in the 50s. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605068)

Look at nuclear power in the 50s. Heck, without government massive subsidies, the power stations today won't get built.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604644)

Perhaps an electrical or mechanical engineer out there could explain for me why they can't or don't put windmills on top of high voltage power line towers? [greenjersey.org]

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604848)

Perhaps an electrical or mechanical engineer out there could explain for me why they can't or don't put windmills on top of high voltage power line towers?

Mechanical is right. Those towers are strong enough to support themselves and the power lines. They probably couldn't support the static weight of a windmill, and they certainly couldn't support the forces an operating windmill would put on them.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605120)

Those towers are strong enough to support themselves and the power lines. They probably couldn't support the static weight of a windmill, and they certainly couldn't support the forces an operating windmill would put on them.

Right, and building them stronger means that they are heavier, which means they need to be even stronger to support their own extra weight. You are usually better off building multiple, smaller structures rather than one huge structure that does many things.

Re:My Opinion, More BFE Buffalo Ridge Projects (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605048)

Because you site a transmission line in low wind corridors.

No kidding. (1)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605010)

Expected value of wildlife killed by windmills if the most expansive plans are realized: what, a few thousand per year?

Wildlife killed from oil spills (Exxon Valdez, the Santa Barbara spill, the Mexican spill of a few years back, Deepwater Horizon, etc): uncountably large, even on an annualized basis. So, anti-wind people: spare me the "won't someone think of the birds" line of reasoning.

On offshore wind farms: both the Great Plains and offshore areas have the advantage of strong, sustained winds. But offshore wind farms have the advantage of being closer to population centers, so you have less transmission loss to worry about - I think that's the real attraction. Then again, it's likely cheaper to site the turbines on land (less complicated than attaching them to the ocean floor, etc). There's also a fair sized installed base on land, so we likely have more expertise there. I think the most likely end result is that we end up using both types of site.

Time to play that card... (5, Insightful)

CaseM (746707) | more than 4 years ago | (#32603932)

And who can blame them, right? I wondered when I'd start to see fresh pleas for alternative energy sources. If you've got that card, now is the damned best time to play it with the BP disaster fresh in everyone's minds.

Re:Time to play that card... (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604978)

The problem with playing to a crisis is eventually the crisis ends and suddenly nobody cares about your proposals anymore. Nixon and Carter both talked big about getting off of foreign oil during the oil shortages in the 1970s, even creating a whole new Cabinet-level department for that purpose. Then the crisis passed, people stopped caring, and before you know it everyone is driving giant SUVs and we're using more foreign oil than ever before.

Re:Time to play that card... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605052)

You ise the crisis to educate people.

That crisis didn't stop, Reagan actively killed it. Coincidently people he appointed had deep ties to the oil industry.

Just keep neo-cons out of office, and it will more forward.

Before responding, please not I said Neo-Cons and not republicans. Granted the republican party is mostly neo-cons now.

Re:Time to play that card... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605060)

So what you're saying is "Never let a serious crisis go to waste, it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

I could swear I've heard that before...

This crazy new wind turbine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604032)

We have been known about them for years, and they produce an absolute shit ton of energy. Plus you can put them anywhere.

They are crazy because they use free neutrons to break apart atoms and release their energy, and whats more these wind farms can be tuned to produce their own wind, cycling the same wind on itself over and over.

They really are amazing wind systems.

CAN WE GET OVER THE DAMN 'N' WORD ALREADY AND BUILD A FEW?

Response Post Bait... (1)

ojintoad (1310811) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604034)

In hot climates, people should put windmills outside their houses to cool themselves off. I hear that's how windmills work in Holland.

Re:Response Post Bait... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604152)

your just trying to get a futurama quote, aren't you?

You should have just posted the quote yourself.

"Windmills do not work that way!" - Morbo

So after this post, you wanna go kill all humans?

I got one.... (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604036)

Spend money on designing a Very simple.. I.E. single moving part. and efficient design that can be replicated in a garage with trash for nearly nothing.

Some of the vertical turbine types that do not follow the wind are interesting but need work.

make wind power super cheap to build out of trash or common materials, easy to build yourself....

That will be the BIGGEST wind idea to ever exist. make it so anyone can build a couple of 500watt generators in a weekend and you suddenly will have every farm and suburbia home with them.

Lots of smaller ones providing power for local sources are far more efficient than a single HUGE one trying to produce enough for a community.

Re:I got one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604248)

actually no. One large turbine is significantly more efficient than lots of smaller ones, not to mention that the larger turbines will produce energy in lower wind environments when the smaller turbines are stopped.

Re:I got one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604570)

My uncle actually tried to do this. Problem is what he ended up with was a funnel about the size of a minivan that could be mounted on the top of his garage. He said that over the last few months it averaged about 90 watts/hour, and could probably be put built for 8-12 grand.

He thought it was cool, but the reality is that it won't even power the lights in his house and he'll never make back his roi. Entertainment value for engineering it himself was pretty high though.

Re:I got one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604760)

90 watts/hour is a meaningless measurement.
Did you mean 90W?

Re:I got one.... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604668)

I doubt you could reasonably build a complex system from trash in a weekend, but it's quite possible to build small-scale wind turbines (a bunch of info here [builditsolar.com] ).

Re:I got one.... (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604878)

make wind power super cheap to build out of trash or common materials, easy to build yourself....

And horribly inefficient with lots of downtime and high maintenance costs.

The problems with wind power are manifold:

  • They are under variable loads and have lots of moving parts so they need to be precisely engineered and maintained.
  • They often need to be placed in inconvenient areas in order to capture enough wind, which makes them difficult to service.
  • The power output of wind generation is unpredictable and can't be used for base power.
  • Because the generators are put in out-of-way areas you have significant power transmission losses.
  • They disturb local weather patterns by lowering wind velocity and introducing eddies, which may or may not cause problems down the road if wind power becomes widespread.
  • It's horribly expensive, the only reason it might seem to be economical right now is because it is heavily subsidized by your tax dollars.

Wind power is not the slam-dunk that a lot of people think it is.

It would be a great idea... (2, Informative)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605104)

... if it weren't for those pesky laws of physics. Wind turbine efficiency goes up with the square of the radius of the turbine [wikipedia.org] . So small turbines are way, way less efficient than big ones - which really means that household sized wind turbines are unlikely to ever win out over industrial sized ones. Solar PE and solar thermal you can do on a single home basis, but wind... not so much.

lol (-1, Troll)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604040)

Your mom could offer a ton of wind energy. Just feed her some beans.

(sorry for all the trolls today, it's a bit slow at work lol)

Re:lol (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604160)

Your mom doesn't need beans, she just blows~

Re:lol (0, Offtopic)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604220)

Burninated!

Re:lol (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605066)

We both need more to do at work.

Three words: (1)

carlhaagen (1021273) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604046)

Vertical-axis wind turbine.

Re:Three words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604120)

What about them?

Re:Three words: (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604186)

Why only three?

Ten Words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604224)

Congress-Powered Smoke-Blown-Up-America's-Ass Hot-Air Turbine

Re:Three words: (2, Interesting)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604672)

There are problems with the general design that have kept these from even being marketed en-mass.

First, they are generally not self starting which means you won't find cheap-o models at Wallmart to put in back of your house. They need wind sensors, electronic controllers, and motor/breaking control, and an alternate electrical power source, just to get started. Once moving they are self sustaining.

Two, they are subject to parasympathetic harmonic oscillations, which eventually lead to catastrophic self destruction. Its part of the physics of the design, as each forward blade produces shock waves in the air stream that hit the rear blades. That also makes them noisy. I have heard of even some 'aircraft quality epoxy-kevlar blades' self destructing after only one years use. I tried to get the laboratory to try again with some suggested design modifications and they basically blew me off because they were "done with it" (the project). No amount of persuasion was going to change anything, even on my own dime.

Three, in high wind situations they don't have a good mechanism for dealing with the 'high energy' situation. Horizontal systems can turn their blades, or rotate sideways (yaw) to reduce the surface area of the blades, but vertical systems can't. Mechanical breaking systems, used to stop all motion, seems to be the only option, and that produces zero power just when the most energy is available.

I can solve 1,2 on the drawing board at home, but have been held up by #3. If you can solve all three of the above, then I agree with you. They rock. But I won't hold my breath for anyone to solve all three without some major research funding. Even so, no amount of money can 'give you an idea', that has to happen all on its own.

Cell towers? (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604088)

I wonder if a large enough wind turbine could be installed in conjunction with cell towers for the turbine to power the cell and charge up batteries for low wind periods. Then cell towers could communicate with each other wirelessly and they could be 'daisy chained' into remote areas.

No Offshore Wind Farms --- Offshore Oil Farms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604100)

Well, now you can just "farm" the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Stick to oil, it's much safer (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604108)

Stick to oil, nothing could possibly go wrong if we just drill for more oil!

Or at least do it in developing countries where nobody cares if it goes wrong.

NIMBY (5, Interesting)

reSonans (732669) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604118)

I hope the offshore aspect solves the NIMBY mentality I often encounter whenever wind energy comes up.

Here's an example. One of my colleagues bought a lakefront property in rural Ontario. A couple of years later, a farmer on the *other side* of the lake leased land to a wind energy provider. They pay $10k per turbine per year, so ten of them went up. My colleague sold his property shortly thereafter, saying that he couldn't stand the turbines.

Can anyone explain this? I'm genuinely curious to know why some people dislike turbines.

Re:NIMBY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604530)

"OMG! Those turbines are UGLY, and disrupt the natural beauty of my scenic, expensive lakefront home! OMG! It's reducing my property value, because it doesn't look pristine anymore! OMG! Those (not wealthy) people are moving in next door! THEY LIKE THE WINDMILLS! OMGWTFBBQ!"

That's why. Nevermind that in some places the things can be quite scenic, and part of the local color of the area. Mostly, it's the people who are members of the cult of Jobs, who have a deeply rooted need to look trendy, and hip, who react to having wind generators nearby with this sort of "kryptonite" like response.

While I do admit that most of the "Wind energy is serious business" type wind projects erect the giant multi-megawatt tower type generators, with the 3 really large blades (which look a bit like really tall weeds...), there are any number of less ugly looking wind generators available. Amusingly, these same people that get hives at the thought of windmills going in, tend to like "Kinetic Sculpture", like THESE [youtube.com]

There really is no real reason why a large windfarm could not also be a large wind sculpture exhibition, other than all the paperwork and costs involved. I suspect many wind sculptors would jump at the opportunity to create functional art.

Re:NIMBY (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604534)

Hahahahaha!

Dude, we've been trying to put up a wind farm off the shore of Massachusetts for over ten years now, and they _still_ don't have the permits.

It turns out that their site, six miles offshore, would still be very slightly visible from the Kennedy compound. So suddenly every democrat politician in the state became flamingly anti-wind-power. They've suffered through lawsuits and protests claiming that they'd kill birds, that they'd kill fish that would swim into the bases so hard that they'd die, that they'd cause hearing loss for the poor little rich kids on the shore (six miles away...), that they'd be used by drug smugglers to hide from coast guard radar (all those drug smugglers that sail up the entire atlantic seaboard hoping to sneak ashore in MA), that they'd screw up aircraft radar systems (despite the FAA saying that no, their radar can ignore stationary targets just fine)...

When Obama finally pushed through the first part of the approval earlier this year, they immediately got slapped by a lawsuit by an indian tribe, asserting that this particular piece of the Atlantic Ocean is a sacred space to their tribe, and windmills would disrupt their freedom to practice their religion there. Despite most of the tribe testifying that they've never heard of any sacred patch of ocean, and there being no written records referring to any sacred patch of ocean, one of the tribe's leaders recently recieved upwards of ten million dollars from an anonymous donor to pursue the lawsuit, and regards the suit as his holy duty, much more important than using that money to do silly things like actually help the tribe members stuck in crushing poverty. It's expected to take at least a decade to grind that one through the courts, because with that sort of funding, stall tactics become really easy.

So, no. Offshore isn't going to help with NIMBY folks. Even NIMBY folks named Kennedy and Kerry who like to lecture the rest of the world on how important the environment is, and rake in millions in donations from environmental groups.

A couple years back, the company trying to put up this wind farm decided as a publicity stunt that they'd apply for a permit for a different type of power plant. They decided on an oil fired one of a type known to dump all sorts of carcinogens into the air, to be located in the middle of a city, across the street from an elementary school. It took under 48 hours from when they filed to when they had all the permits to legally begin construction... Compared to the _ten_years_ they've been struggling to get the permits to do wind power.

Re:NIMBY (0)

JWW (79176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604702)

That is the best, most succinct, post I've seen here on /. that explains why everyone should never, ever pay any attention whatsoever to anything Robert Kennedy Jr. ever says about the global warming and the environment.

Re:NIMBY (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605092)

They are loud, disrupt wind patterns, and destroy the natural view.

Plus you don't really get that much out of them. When you look at energy to produce and maintain.

Yeah, I don't get it either. (2, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605128)

They're actually kind of beautiful - giant, graceful kinetic sculptures. I really don't understand the problem.

Washington DC (4, Insightful)

Silly Man (15712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604122)

Place the wind farms around the Beltway. There is plenty of hot wind coming from Washington.

Re:Washington DC (5, Funny)

internetcommie (945194) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604480)

There would be too much shit hitting the fans!

Getting the rest of the government on board (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604126)

Well as soon as DOE can convince FAA and the Air Force [aero-news.net] to stop blocking projects [bizjournals.com] perhaps we can make some progress.

Its a little frightening that a non-emitting source could so easily fool radar and the best solution either agency has is to block wind farms.

Then there is the BLM and their restrictive access polices, not to mention the Kennedy clan.

There are some obvious problems with wind (hot calm days), but tied to an efficient national grid much of these should be manageable.

 

Re:Getting the rest of the government on board (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605110)

RADAR has noting to do with a source emitting anything. reflecting is a another matter.

offshore? (1)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604182)

Why do that?
USA is too small?
USA is too full?
Just buy a load of Enercon E-126 mills at 7.5 MW peak each.
If the Belgians can have 11 (yes, Estinnes...) why can't the USA place a few more?
Why not 'allow' private participation?
Why not stimulate people taking care of their own energy?
(yes, that is not their agenda...)

obligatory "wind turbines at Congress" comment her (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604264)

and obligatory "wind turbines at BP headquarters" comment here

I hate windmills (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604266)

Go nuclear.
-Modern reactor designs won't meltdown.
-There are no transportation risks
-There really are no long-term storage problems with storing it in the earth.
-There really are no long-term storage problems once we get reliable and inexpensive orbital insertions. (Hurl it at the Sun, or other body)
-There is little risk from radiation problems if material burns up on accidental re-entry. This can also be addressed in packaging.

Really the whole wind farm thing is a ploy by special interests to get government subsidies for building these things, which they can then bill you at a higher electric rate.

Lastly, they aren't as green as you think. Just ask this vulture. [youtube.com]

Re:I hate windmills (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604558)

There really are no long-term storage problems once we get reliable and inexpensive orbital insertions.

Why not just feed it to your unicorn instead?

It seems to me that "It's no problem, once we've invented technologies that are not even on the drawing board" isn't much of an argument. Neither is "Probably safer than the other designs we thought were safe."

I'm all for adding more nuclear power, but trivializing the difficulties and dismissing alternatives with conspiracy theories (what, nuclear power doesn't have "special interests"?) makes the case weaker rather than stronger.

Re:I hate windmills (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604648)

Really the whole wind farm thing is a ploy by special interests to get government subsidies for building these things, which they can then bill you at a higher electric rate.

Yeah, because it doesn't cost an order of magnitude more to build a nuclear plant... and that's ignoring ongoing disposal costs, maintenance and inspections, security-related costs, etc.

Lastly, they aren't as green as you think.

Wow, way to lose all credibility. High-rise towers and house cats kill far *far* more birds than any wind farm, particularly given modern low-RPM designs.

Re:I hate windmills (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605062)

I'm not a fan of cats either. They are feral pests that should go. High-rises are stationary. Windmills are natural. The bird brain has eveloved some capabilities: Either it is a tree, rock or land and is largely stationary. Or it is alive and highly mobile. Wind mill blades never deviate from course. It falls between a tree and being alive, and the birds lack sufficient understanding/collision avoidance systems. I am open to the possibility that these may be learned over the long term.

Ah, yes, but what about bats? [usgs.gov]

You have all those same costs with wind farms. Have you considered the Toshiba 4S Reactor? [wikipedia.org]

Even AWEA [awea.org] admits that it is not cost-competitive. They instead invoke unquantified "hidden subsidies" (really post-market costs, subject to customer mitigation) to justify their front-loaded costs.

Re:I hate windmills (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605134)

4th Gen nuclear Plants produce very little waste, and it take 200-500 years for the waste to be at background radiation levels.

Plus the added benefit id we would use current waste to produce energy.

More wind (2, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604484)

So can we just everyone to eat more curry?

Yes We Can * (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604516)

* - with foreign turbines.

Energy cost of wind (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604548)

I'd bet that if you calculated the actual energy used to produce the steel/copper/oil/etc in these generators, they won't break even over their useful lifespan.

You'd lose that bet. Hard. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604666)

You'd lose that bet. Hard. EROI is less than 4 years. Lifetime 30+ years.

Double Up (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604864)

It seems to me that we could have a lot more windmills if we doubled up on the use of the area at the base of the turbines. For example, at sea, the base of the windmill might be the center post of a floating fish farm. On land solar collectors or fish ponds could be built. The generation of food underneath the towers could pay for the construction and maintenance of the windmills.
                Sprawl and use of materials can be better managed if we make certain that every parcel of land has multiple uses.

Do they accept ideas from offshore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604870)

>> technology that will reduce cost of offshore wind energy through innovation and testing."

Here's the most interesting idea I've found, mainly because it's a seemingly elegant solution to the energy storage problem.
http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/03/uk-startup-targets-reducing-wind-energy.html

Is there any more research in energy storage? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604894)

It seems to be part of the bugaboo with wind -- when the wind blows and nobody needs your power, you're just, well, tilting at the wind.

Producing hydrogen seems appealing because it can be burned cleanly, either at a facility at the wind farm or at some other aggregating site at some other time or for some other purpose (heat, motor vehicle fuel, methane production, etc).

And if hydrogen were the standard, it would lower the overhead costs of equipment, enable regional aggregation (ie, no production quantity would be "too small") and probably lead to better technologies for using hydrogen as a fuel.

More realistic approaches (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605014)

Wind is sort of a nice idea for future, but there are things, which can be done right now. I mean producing by reducing consumption.

For example, limiting the weight of a personal car by a universal international law.

Now there are cars, which weigh 3000 kilograms and more. It can be limited, say, by 1500 kg. Still it can be quite a comfortable car.

Limiting area of a air-conditioned (heated) house or apartment by 100 square meters per one person. There are houses of hundreds of rooms, tens of thousand of square meters, where only a couple of persons live. 100 square meters per person is enough for a comfortable apartment or house.

Overweight people could be mildly, but unequivocally, taxed via increased medical insurance payments, because large amounts of food mean large amount of energy. Besides additional medical care for overweight people also takes a lot of energy. And also via 2-tickets rule for any mode of public transportation.

There should be a enforceable legal ban on any form of forbidding of drying clothing and linen on the sun at the fresh air. Drying wet clothing in the sun is the most efficient solar energy and wind device ever.

Enormous, geological amounts of energy are being spent on drying clothing and linen in the electrical dryers. And in some districts and even entire cities it is forbidden to dry clothing outdoors.

The sidewalks and walking should be promoted as a state policy, not laughed out, as it is the case now, especially in the USA, where it is close to incident to walk.

There should be process in media and in societal conversations to stop billions of women to shave legs (and other parts) nearly daily. A huge quantities of energy is being spent on this pointless exercise. Now it is also close to incident to look like a human female should look.

These are the real things, which can be and should be done. Otherwise energy consumption will be only increasing and no windmills will help us.

By the way, I know why all this talk about windmills. I've heard from a source in BP, that there is no way to stop the spill, the pressure in this well is absolutely too high. It may reach New York and further. So that is why this talk about windmills' New Course.

spill power (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605036)

How about we install turbines in all of the deep sea oil holes. That way when they leak we can at least get SOME energy out of them.

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