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Interconnecting Wind Farms To Smooth Power Production

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the sounds-like-a-plan dept.

Power 112

Roland Piquepaille writes "Wind power is one of the world's fastest growing electric energy sources, but as wind is intermittent, a single wind farm cannot deliver a steady amount of energy. This is why scientists at Stanford University want to connect wind farms to develop a cheaper and more reliable power source. Interconnecting wind farms with a transmission grid should reduce the power swings caused by wind variability and provide a somewhat constant and reliable electric power (or 'baseload' power) provided by other power plants."

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Can we... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21460975)

Can we find some way to harness the power of Roland's blogspam?

Re:Can we... (2, Funny)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21460993)

Yup, just attach bit turbines inline with the intertubes that deliver the World Wide Mail.

Re:Can we... (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461219)

I always suspected a hidden meaning in Christopher Cross' 1980 prophecy, Ride Like the Wind.

The only question in my mind now is whether Michael McDonald was in on it.

Re:Can we... (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461077)

I'm no thermomechanical engineer, but I think spam has high entropy, and as such, is not suitable as a source of useful energy.

Re:Can we... (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461139)

Did you even read the summary? All you need is to interconnect the spam! We could probably use some kind of TCP/IP based infrastructure...

Re:Can we... (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461245)

Rectifiers and voltage converters could convert the re-routed spam back to useful energy. If the spam isn't located close to a distribution center, it could be transmitted via tcp/ip as the op stated.

WTF?? (4, Informative)

jdray (645332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461001)

If I read the article right, this guy has no clue what he's talking about, or is completely misinformed. What does he think the national electrical grid does? The only thing that making an entirely separate distribution grid for wind power would achieve is to ensure that the power being delivered to a particular point was 100% wind-generated. As soon as it enters the common grid, though, it's mixed with "brown power" (fossil fuel generated, as opposed to "green power"). Unless municipalities want to run entirely from one source (no reliability to speak of), this is a useless and horribly expensive exercise.

Just to qualify, I have nearly a decade of experience in the energy industry, specifically electric. Right now I work for a wind power company.

Re:WTF?? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461023)

If there's low demand when there's high supply of power (any kind) then that power is lost. There's no storage. That's the issue that needs to be solved. Of course it makes virtually no difference right now cause there's almost always enough demand to use all the available supply of wind power.

Re:WTF?? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461591)

Or these [wikipedia.org] which have been in operation for quite some time?

Re:WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21463987)

Pumped storage is long-term, fast reacting and has good efficiency (~80%), especially compared to other proposed methods like compressed air storage or flywheels. However there isn't nearly that much storage capacity in order to compensate for typical wind fluctuations, should wind energy provide a substantial (>10-15%) amount of electricity.

Re:WTF?? (4, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461057)

If I read the article right, this guy has no clue what he's talking about, or is completely misinformed. What does he think the national electrical grid does?

We are talking about Roland here - a lot of his stuff is "just heard about something obvious - got it wrong slightly and just have to enthusiasticly share it with you."

Even then, it's the same difference. (2, Interesting)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461109)

Even then, we just pump the wind power into the grid and ask people on the tail-end to pay for the wind power. This is what Colorado does. The wind is added to the grid, and the extra cost gets dished out to people who pay for the wind generated energy. In the end it is the same result. Although, a year or so back the wind power dropped below the "brown power" and the program was pretty much capped at that point.

You don't need to have any experience to understand the power grid at the level of pump power in, and other generator will smooth out the power generation. We couldn't convert the entire grid to wind, or to solar, but mix those in with a good amount of baseline power (I'd recommend nuclear) and you have a green energy portfolio without crashing everything.

Yeah, this is the most worthless article to make slashdot for nearly a day.

Re:Even then, it's the same difference. (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462439)

Yeah, this is the most worthless article to make slashdot for nearly a day

Yeah, /. has really gone downhill since SourceForge jacked the domain [slashdot.org] from Bennett Haselton.

Re:WTF?? (3, Interesting)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461173)

I think the point is that these Stanford guys measured the wind at a bunch of places across the midwest and then figured out how much power could be generated by the aggregation of these places. Then you can use the this data to decide a national policy and to provision the long-distance capacity to get this to where to consumers are - the example they give is California. As for the the national power grid being used - I was under the impression that the US did not have a national power grid with enough capacity to move significant power around. Isn't that why there can be shortages in California while everyone else is fine?

Re:WTF?? (3, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461333)

the shortages in California that have been on record were during the Enron period, look for the movie 'Enron, the smartest boys in the room' using your favourite bit torrent site for more info. The short version is that those outages where engineered to drive up the price of energy.

Re:Homework (4, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463157)

The short version is that those outages where engineered to drive up the price of energy.

The long version is they were able to do it because there was not enough transmission capacity to import the power to replace the spike in demand from the heat wave and the shortage of online generation capacity.

Enrron was fighting price caps. It was done by selecting an upcoming period of increased demand as a time to shut down several plants for maintenance knowing the transmission infrastructure couldn't carry the load. They were hoping to use the shortage to force their hand. They pushed higher prices to ensure increased generation capacity. It fell apart when the books were examined. Somehow they didn't see that one coming.

look for the movie 'Enron
That's the Hollywood version. They take some facts and then add scriptwriters to make a drams out of it. Often the facts are ignored to make a good drama even though the movie is based on a true story. The movie doesn't have time to educate the moviegoers into the VA limitations of transmission lines, the problems with high power factor loads such as air conditioning putting additional reactive power components on the line. (How many times was MegaVars mentioned?) I'll have to watch the movie just to see if they even mention the Volt-Ampers capacity of the line. I wonder if they simply mention Mega Watts and ignore Power Factor.

The delivery capacity is real. The GP was right. The parent missed some simple homework. Here is a couple items on the capacity issue.

http://www.parapundit.com/archives/001581.html [parapundit.com]
"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that oversees transmission, has been trying for years to prod power companies into forming new, multi-state regional grids with authority over planning and system reliability measures. But utilities in the Southeast and Northwest fear that a more wide-open system would allow their cheaper power to be siphoned away from their customers. They have made war on FERC's plans and some members of Congress are trying to block the commission's transmission initiative from going forward until 2005 or 2007."

http://tdworld.com/mag/power_california_bulks_provide/ [tdworld.com]
"The Path 15 upgrade in California represents the first public-private partnership organized to improve a transmission system that has become seriously congested. Pointing out that Path 15 is not the only circuit that has suffered from congestion problems, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI; Palo Alto, California, U.S.), estimates that US$100 billion must be spent to upgrade the U.S. electricity grid."

"When the lights went out in Northern California in 2000-2001, a long-standing transmission bottleneck received national attention. A contributing factor to the crisis was a transmission constraint in Central California known as Path 15, where three 500-kV lines linking northern and southern California narrowed to two lines for 84 miles (135 km) through the Central Valley. The corridor's lack of transfer capacity hampered efforts to move available generation north from southern California and the desert southwest."

California may have enough Santa Anna winds to localy provide much wind power, but in the dog days of summer, the transmission system is not up to the task of importing sufficient power from out of state.

"By late 1998, load growth had become a significant factor for grid operators, who were prevented from moving power across the congested Path 15. The congestion hit hard in 2000 and 2001 when scarce generation forced the ISO to declare stage-three emergencies, indicating reserves were so low that rolling blackouts were imminent and resulting in several days of rotating outages of firm customer load. The emergencies extended into the winter with threats of outages continuing. Between Sept. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2000, consumers spent an additional $221.7 million in energy costs due to constraints on Path 15."

"The upgrade will increase Path 15's south-to-north capacity from 3900 MW to 5400 MW, significantly reducing electricity costs with savings estimated at $100 million annually under normal conditions and more than $300 million during a dry year when Path 15 helps to mitigate lack of hydro in Northern California."

The engineering part is simply that Enron wanted to have California build more generation capacity and then charge a premium for it. They fought the building up of transmission capacity to import power from the East and South. Building lots of transmission capicity while not building generation capacity is still not the answer. Generation capacity must grow to meed demand. Transmission capacity must grow to meet the generation capacity to transport efficient power to the locations of high demand. This prevents the local high cost islands of electrical power that Enron was trying to build for profit.

Re:WTF?? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462473)

The California energy crisis was due to the breakdown of their privatization effort. New electricity generation was prohibited in the state (for a ten year or so period) while all three big electricity providers were by the end selling electricity at a low fixed rate (so no incentive for customers to reduce demand) while forced buying power at market rates. Enron and other companies engaged in a number of price fixing strategies (including taking power generation offline) which worked extremely well due to the flawed nature of the market (for example, long term contracts had been discouraged somehow in order to drive business to the market).

As I understand it, all power lines into California were maxed out. They were pulling power from the Northwest and even as far away as New Mexico. I heard of energy intensive businesses like aluminum smelting completely stopping just so they could sell the power to California. The most extreme case I heard of was a copper mine in western New Mexico (IIRC, Chino mine near Silver City, New Mexico) that shut down and ran its backup natural gas generators for a few weeks. It was crazy.

Re:WTF?? (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462555)

I was under the impression that the US did not have a national power grid with enough capacity to move significant power around
I'm not sure what you mean by capacity to move it around - doesn't electricity just loose strength over long distances unless the wires are made of pure gold or silver or somesuch? I don't think it's possible to move electricity from, say, New York to Los Angeles without an affordable outdoor-temperature superconductor.

Re:WTF?? (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463255)

Yay! The Eco movement meets NIMBY on a grand scale!

I want my power to be from wind mills, but don't litter my pristine mountain ranges with those silly propellers - instead there is all this land in the middle of the country that we could put them on. Of course, minor details like power line transmission loss pale in comparison to the smugness they can claim by having 100% wind power.

These pin heads could have the net same effect if they were to move 100% of all internet data centers to the middle of the country and surround them with wind mills - that would reduce power demands in CA, increase response times for half the country, and free up some more over-priced land in CA - a Win-Win-Win!

Re:WTF?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461293)

"Wind power is one of the world's fastest growing electric energy sources..."

Yup. 0% to .02% IS an infinite growth curve......

"...Interconnecting wind farms with a transmission grid...."

Umm..I don't know where to start. How does he think the stuff gets to the customer normally? Perhaps he should patent this idea? Lots of you will be commenting 'been done before' - I'd like to point out that there are non-negligible I2R lossess in a power grid, so it is still a good idea to site generation comparatively near consumption, which is what is done. A National Grid provides a balancing service - you don't really ship electricity from one side of a big country to the other.

But (oh, dear!) Wind farms need to be sited where there is wind, which is usually far away from settlement. So their I2R losses will be particularly high. The tree-huggers have been hiding this inconvenient little fact, but I note that wind farms in Scotland have recently been told they will only be paid on the juice that comes out next to the consumer, not the juice that goes in at the farm, making the whole politicised engineering mess even more uneconomic than it was in the first instance....

Re:WTF?? (4, Informative)

Squalish (542159) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461557)

In 2006, wind was 0.65%% of electrical generation
In 2005, it was 0.44%.
In 2004, it was 0.36%.

Wind is 44% of new planned electrical generation for 2007.

If current growth rates hold:
Next year, we'll generate more electricity from wind than we do from geothermal + solar + waste incinerators put together.
The year after that, we'll generate more electricity from wind than we do from all petroleum products put together.
Three more years, and wind will match hydro.

While I am extrapolating on the very high 50% growth figures... I think there is the potential for much more than that if a newly minted Democratically-controlled federal government does the environmentally sound thing and attacks coal, which is more polluting than any other energy source in pretty much every way. More CO2, more landscape destruction, more particulate matter, more sulfur, more methane, more radioactive material release, more unsafe groundwater, more mercury. A rational environmentalist with the ability to compare things (of which there are few) should table any objections that they have to other sources of energy, and protest surface coal + tarsands mining until they're banned. Yucca Mountain's worst-case-in-10,000-years-scenario is a joke compared to the devastation being doled out weekly from these two things.

Wind is already cost-competitive with coal + NG, and either wind getting increased federal subsidies of some type, wind getting significantly cheaper, or coal's externalities being priced seriously would make it much more than 44% of new capacity.

Yes, the article covers obvious points. More wind means a much more measured use of hydro, more turbine-local storage, more centralized pumped hydro storage, and more nationwide interconnects. We don't currently have a nationwide grid - we have a few small load balancing bridges between regional networks that themselves are pretty overloaded, and have trouble getting local utilities to cooperate to build more infrastructure. That would need to be built up dramatically to bring wind over 25% or so of our generation. But at the level we're at now, wind can be absorbed into slightly different duty cycles at the local hydropower quite easily.

Re:WTF?? (1)

CeramicNuts (265664) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462655)

Speaking of landscape destruction... Have you ever driven the interstate through Palm Springs, CA? It is just like driving through an industrial wasteland.

Wind power stations uglify the landscape very effectively. They should be in the middle of nowhere.

Re:WTF?? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463257)

Speaking of landscape destruction... Have you ever driven the interstate through Palm Springs, CA? It is just like driving through an industrial wasteland.

That's your opinion, of course. I think they are quite beautiful, like driving through a kinetic sculpture. But even if for the sake of argument we agree that they are ugly to some people, they are still much less ugly than, say, an oil refinery [tamu.edu] , or mountaintop removal coal mining [ohvec.org] .

Re:WTF?? (1)

Squalish (542159) | more than 5 years ago | (#21464879)

You could say the same thing about driving through any agricultural zone. The original landscape has utterly disappeared, replaced with rows of monocropped center-pivot-irrigated shrub for miles on end, interspersed with quarter mile long livestock hangars and lagoons of waste.

Re:WTF?? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463343)

I think there is the potential for much more than that if a newly minted Democratically-controlled federal government does the environmentally sound thing and attacks coal...

Fine. But just as long as you know that cheap energy will be a thing of the past once this happens.

Coal is that cheap energy you enjoy. Even if it's not part of your electric plan, you're still using it when shopping for other goods and services that are using it. Unless you plan on replacing it with something as cheep, everyone will feel the pain.

I only ask this. Once the cost of electricity goes through the roof because you were in favor of getting rid of coal; don't bitch about it! If you and your supporters are ok with this ramification, then by all means go for it.

Re:WTF?? (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463889)

Wind power prices are falling quickly, and are already down to $0.04-$0.07/kwh (very close to coal's $0.03-$0.04/kwh). Thanks to a new photovoltaics material called copper indium gallium selenide [wikipedia.org] , the cost of solar is set to drop to a tenth its current cost (from $0.20-$0.30/kwh to $0.02-$0.03/kwh, slightly cheaper than coal). Cadmium telluride also appears promising, but CIGS is getting all the VC money right now.

To head off the vaporware argument: a company called Nanosolar [wikipedia.org] is out there, well funded, and building a huge plant in San Jose. When completed (sometime in 2008) it's expected to spit out over 400MW of panels every year.

So even if there was a ban on new or expanding coal plants (or a slow phaseout of existing plants), there is a firm limit to how much energy prices can rise, even limiting ourselves to proven tech. Throw in near-term advances in solar, and the greener tech is also the cheaper tech.

Only a fast ban (say, a complete ban by 2027) would send electricity prices "through the roof".

Re:WTF?? (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#21464755)


What *does* need to happen in the short term is a freeze on the construction of new coal-fired plants, and for a lifespan to be set on the remaining ones in operation. 25-50 years is plenty of time for the coal industry to slowly wind down.

Operators of said plants must also be forced to "re-certify" their plants every few years to be up to current emissions standards. I remember reading about one power plant that had been running for 50+ years on essentially the same design as when it was built, and thanks to the fact that the operator never did a "major" overhaul, but instead a series of small repairs, the plant never had to be brought up to modern standards.

In the meantime, there's no reason not to start building Nuclear plants to fill in the gaps that can't be filled by solar, hydro, or wind until those technologies mature a bit further. I believe 3 permits have been issued so far by the NRC. Even ignoring global warming, and taking Chernobyl into account (along with every other nuclear accident that's ever occurred PLUS Hiroshima and Nagasaki) , coal is *FAR* more dangerous than Nuclear. (Which is why we need to be actively puressuring China to pursue alternate means of generation -- ash that can be traced to China and Japan is routinely collected on the West Coast in non-insignificant amounts)

Re:WTF?? (1)

Squalish (542159) | more than 5 years ago | (#21464825)

A ton of coal is equivalent to something like 8 YEARS of hard labor from a man-powered machine using up 3 men for 8 hours a day each. Power companies assign that a value of around $30.

We've been wasteful with our energy, and even if global warming was a non-issue (oxidizing almost pure carbon is much worse than busting hydrocarbon bonds), the pollution from coal is a serious offense. We shouldn't tolerate our landscape being destroyed for the sake of a fraction of a penny per kilowatt hour.

I'm not in favor of getting rid of coal altogether overnight, I'm in favor of an immediate moratorium on new coal plants or surface mines, and a 4 year total phaseout of surface coal/tarsands mining and importation of surface coal/tarsands. Coal mines are horrible, but they're much less destructive locally - you can count on popular support of coal mining in local districts, which would be impossible for surface solid hydrocarbon mining once a decent ad campaign gets done with it.

With surface coal mining dunked (60% of US coal), coal prices would adjust to a level more in line with alternatives, old inefficient plants would shut themselves down, dying mining towns would start themselves back up again, and wind would become the mainstay cheapest choice in many situations. The slow decline of coal after that would be due to geological and economic factors - we've mined much of the easy stuff.

Incidentally, I'm of the opine that cheap energy is a thing of the past, period. Peak oil will see to that... right about now, actually. Electricity is already set to take off because of PHEVs, and alternatives will be explored by everybody. We already have billions of rioting urban third worlders who have been priced out of burning oil in the last four years. NG, coal, nuclear - anything looks good to them right about now, with their workday restrained to daylight hours and winter a deadly menace they thought they'd conquered. Imagine what happens when the US's longrunning economic problems finally burst (beginning right about now, actually, if you look at the dollar vs Euro/basket), and a nation of people who have never known true want are plunged into what could be another Great Depression, but with 10x greater fuel costs. Why not prepare for that day by pricing the patio-heaters of the world out of mainstream use, while at the same time saving the environment and slowing Global Warming?

Re:WTF?? (2, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#21466131)

Coal is that cheap energy you enjoy. Even if it's not part of your electric plan, you're still using it when shopping for other goods and services that are using it. Unless you plan on replacing it with something as cheep, everyone will feel the pain.

I only ask this. Once the cost of electricity goes through the roof because you were in favor of getting rid of coal; don't bitch about it! If you and your supporters are ok with this ramification, then by all means go for it.
Coal won't be cheap forever. It is artificially low because it doesn't include the price of carbon emissions; neither do our consumer goods. This will change - it in inevitable. Eventually, either in terms of cap-and-trade, carbon capture and sequestration, the cost of coal will go up, as will the cost of gasoline and natural gas. Taxing emissions at, say, $30/ton suddenly makes all kinds of cleaner energy sources viable.

We're not talking about the cost of electricity going through the roof. Carbon capture and sequestration, depending on whose numbers you believe and what technology you use, requires 15%-45% more energy to generate the same amount of electricity. So, throw in the amortized capital cost of the equipment involved, and you are looking at, maybe, a 50% increase in the cost of electricity if you require sequestration.A 50% increase is no small amount, I'll grant, but when you consider that the cost of gasoline in the U.S. has tripled over the last decade, a 50% increase doesn't seem so bad.

Here's another measure. In the U.S., about 1.35 pounds of CO2 are emitted for every kilowatt-hour generated (page 1 of a DOE report here [doe.gov] ). That works out to 750 kWh/tonCO2. A $30/ton tax on CO2 would increase the cost of a generated kilowatt-hour by $0.04. So, at worst we are talking about a doubling in the cost of generating coal-based electricity. Wind is cost-competitive now, even without such a tax. With the tax, all sorts of other energies become viable. I am fine with having the cost of my electricity double. It makes generating my own electricity more attractive. More importantly, higher prices encourage conservation, which is sorely needed in the world. The United States, as a matter of policy, can choose to forge a lead in these energy and conservation technologies, or else continue business-as-usual until we have no choice but to adopt them. One path creates a promising new economic sector that we can export to the world, the other forces us to import as greater cost.

Re:WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21465875)

Scared of the maths? Wind is NEVER going to be a cost-effective way to run a technological society. Get used to the idea, or go an live in a cave!

Re:WTF?? (1)

Xman (100370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461309)

As an added bonus, the paper seems to ignore the fact that it's damn hard to get the right-of-ways required to build Transmission, let alone this goofy-just-for-wind transmission system.

Consider this story [kake.com] about wind farm projects in trouble because the Transmission they need is only justifiable if a base-load Coal plant is built nearby.

Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Actually, (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462875)

Sine you work for a wind company, then you should know that the grid is really lacking. In particular, we have very large lines from powerplants into cities. Make sense since our approach for multiple decades was one of single point of supply to roughly single point of delivery. In between these points, the grid thins out. What is needed is for an increase in capacity in between these. In particular, we are making somehead way with superconductors. The manufactuering is still expensive, but a line across the USA would help to distribute power across the USA.

Re:Actually, (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463831)

I do know that the grid is lacking. That doesn't mean it makes sense to build a second grid alongside the first to carry just wind power. That's just silly.

Re:WTF?? (1)

Squirmy McPhee (856939) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462885)

If I read the article right, this guy has no clue what he's talking about, or is completely misinformed.

Based on the summary, I tend to agree (couldn't get to the article for some reason). However, it does occur to me that if a supplier can provide easier-to-schedule wind output, which the kind of "smoothing" the article discusses might be able to provide, then perhaps there's some economic incentive for this. I agree there's no incentive from an engineering standpoint, but we all know that that isn't the only thing that counts in the end. FWIW, I'm also in the energy industry, though not specifically in wind. And I'm only speculating -- I suspect you're much more knowledgeable in this particular area than I am.

Re:WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21464127)

If you work for a wind power company then you should know that the output from a wind farm is not stable. The power fluctuates and can not be predicted. The power grid is stabilized by a control system running a model of expected production and load to keep everything balanced. They even have a separate model for the super bowl because the usage pattern changes. Several of the European governments posted warnings about the "lights-out" event in February, stating that it could unbalance the control system and cause blackouts. The problem with wind farms is that the output varies so much that they have a hard time predicting the output for the control system. They add capacitor banks to compensate for short drops, but it is still a major problem. The latest issue of "Power & Energy" from the IEEE Power Engineering Society was all about wind farms and connecting them to the grid. Link but you have to be a member to read it http://www.ieee.org/organizations/pes/public/2007/nov/index.html [ieee.org] .

I don't think building a separate grid for the wind farms is going to fix anything. It think it would be better to make the output from the individual wind farms more stable, or at least more predictable.

Re:WTF?? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#21465315)

You're correct, the author of said article is on crack. Just hooking up your wind farm into the power grid somewhere should be sufficient.

Re:WTF?? (1)

lsatenstein (949458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21467673)

I would like to know how to synchronize the frequencies that different windmill farms would have on the grid. There would be tremendous power surges if Farm A was a fraction to one half cycle out of synchronisation with Farm B. When you build a grid, there will be more than two Windmill Farms involved, and therefore the problem, as I see it, becomes a (N-1) squared one.

Perhaps the way to do it is to have one central source with a fixed frequency to serve as a reference and from which each Farm must advance speed or retard speed of their turbines so that all frequencies march in step.

Have no idea how easy this is to do with wind electrical generation systems


Re:WTF?? (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21467919)

The transmission system ("the grid") has voltage and frequency regulation systems built into it. Indeed, transmission service providers (the owners and operators of transmission lines) provide those services, along with others, under a cafeteria-style heading of "ancillary services."

I have an idea (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461005)

Here's a thought, lets connect things that generate power, with things that use power, we'll setup infrastructure all over the country, and I shall call it.... **dramatic pause** A Power Grid! **music plays**

Interconnected power generation systems eh? (5, Funny)

hoggy (10971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461009)

If only there were some kind of existing infrastructure to do this! A kind of grid that runs nationally and can be connected to by different power generation systems. Even better, what if you used the same grid to distribute power to those using it!

Think of the possibilities!

Re:Interconnected power generation systems eh? (1)

kongit (758125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461191)

Nah thats a horrible idea. Just think if part of that grid went down and it wasn't correctly made. That grid just might maybe have a large problem involving vital parts crashing and putting a lot of the North-eastern USA and parts of Canada out of power for a time. If we all just ran off of local power then only small parts go out individually often for a short period of time. Of course if they just made the grid correctly and didn't use 100 year old parts maybe the grid idea would work. Who knows, I wish we had a good example of such a grid to study.

Re:Interconnected power generation systems eh? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#21464637)

Is that you, George Westinghouse? People like you and Nikola Tesla are nuts. This alternating current garbage you are talking about is just a fad and will never work.

-- Thomas A. Edison

Good news for bird-lovers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461037)

Windfarms aren't as bad [treehugger.com] for birds as previously thought. Won't somebody please think of the birds?!

*munches on leftover turkey*

Electricity holding on line one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461045)

Whatever happen to all the other suggestions for electrical grid storage? e.g. flywheel,compressed air,supercapacitor,superconductivity.

Re:Electricity holding on line one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461153)

Attempting to store many multiple MWs of power is extremely difficult. If we had better battery technology, we would have solved the electric car range sufficiency problem already.

Actually we have the technology. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#21466245)

Attempting to store many multiple MWs of power is extremely difficult. If we had better battery technology, we would have solved the electric car range sufficiency problem already.

Actually we have the capacity - for stationary plants at least. It's called "vanadium redox". Long-lived, low-toxicity, efficient. It's been in initial deployments for several years now - mainly down in Oz and/or New Zeland. It has the interesting property that the energy is stored in the electrolytes, like a fuel cell - so you can store "charged" and "discharged" electrolytes in big tanks and separately size the electrode structures for max power level and the tanks for storage capacity. Further, the electrolyte from multiple cells can be pooled, allowing for some very useful properties. For instance, you can charge and discahrge at different (or even multiple) voltages, just by tapping the stack of cells as appropriate. Bingo: DC Transformer.

Cars are a different kettle of fish: The heavier the battery the more power it takes to move it around, which gives you nasty issues similar to those of rocket vehicles. Automobile applications requrie very low losses at high charge and discharge rates to avoid overheating, "refuel" qiickly, and efficiently scavenge braking power for later re-use. And you need to be safe in collisions, be stable though vibration, G-forces, and at various tilts, and have failure modes that don't take out the whole battery pack and disable the car if a cell fails.

New cells for this are coming along, too. Best one I'm aware of is the carbon nanofiliment electrode lithium-ion cell, also going into production, though there may be others.

Re:Electricity holding on line one. (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462233)

The problem, apparently, is that besides pumped hydro, most energy storage techniques don't scale large enough to be used for grid-leveling.

For example, compressed air requires an enormous reservoir such that the reservoir's internal temperature doesn't change significantly during the compression side of the cycle (charging the reservoir). During the expansion side of the cycle (discharging the reservoir), some source of heat is required (like burning natural gas) to counter the drop in temperature as the gas expands. Theoretically, concentrated solar might work for heating, but they would still need a backup in case of bad weather or non-daytime demand.

I actually an optimistic that supercaps might be useful this way one day, but the current cost to manufacture, combined with the energy density, makes them too expensive right now.

Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461197)

It's Roland the Plogger again, trying to drive traffic to his blog. It's not like he actually understands what he posts.

Here's the actual paper, Supplying Baseload Power and Reducing Transmission Requirements by Interconnecting Wind Farms [stanford.edu] . The authors have been crunching on wind speed data to try to figure out if a widespread enough set of wind farms would statistically be able to consistently produce power.

Their definition of "consistently produces power" is 79% to 92% uptime. This figure is based on the uptime for a typical single coal-fired generation unit. But they're using those numbers for a whole collection of widely distributed wind farms. That's not an appropriate comparison.

They have some moderately encouraging numbers for a set of 19 wind farms spread across a thousand kilometers, from New Mexico to Kansas. But look at Figure 3. 92% of the time, at least a quarter of average output is available. The output reliably available 99+% of the time is near zero.

What this paper actually demonstrates is that "baseload wind" isn't going to consistently provide power, even with a big grid. You need peaking plants or energy storage.

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461259)

Even more so, consider that a single wind generator generates about 25% of it's "nameplate rating" due to conversion losses, the fact that wind doesn't blow year round, etc.

So, take a 750 KW turbine weighing about 110 tons with a nacelle 250 feet off the ground, and you are looking at 750 * 0.25 = 188 KW when the wind is blowing, or roughly 1.6M KWH per year. Note you'd need nearly 200M of these to minimally meet the US demand for electricity. Remember each one weighs 110 tons of steel and copper....very quickly you are at the US production of steel for several years just to build enough turbines...but that's another post (BTW, the concrete required to hold 2 million of these 110 ton monsters up is yet another story).

Currently, the US enjoys about "3 nines" of energy reliability. Not great, not bad.

If you have a wind turbine that is generating at least 50% of rated power 60% of the time, then you need about 6 turbines to exceed 90% availability. And that is the killer with alt energy: it's seldom there when you need it. To get it there at 90% reliability means you have to dramatically overbuild. When you see calcs showing how little wind and solar cost, they never factor in how much each of those technologies cost to get you 90% certainty on availability.

The idea of storing the energy in pumped water systems, flywheels, molten salt is unbelievably prohibitive from a cost and scale standpoint. Don't bring that up.

Alt energy is such a scam. If the public knew the tradeoffs, they'd run like hell from alt energy and we'd be building nuclear plants as fast as France (and much of the EU) and China.

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461305)

"Alt energy is such a scam"

really? so all those UK companies that stuck wind turbines in their car parks to power their factories and offices did so as a joke? or is it actually economically viable to do so? I'd guess the latter, as companies with the money to build big turbines normally don't throw money away.
The payback time (at least in the UK) on wind power is pretty long, but still sensible if you are thinking long term. And the payback time on solar AFAIK is way way better. I'd rather stick a solar heating system on the roof and forget about it, than have new nuclear build, and the thought of owning and controlling at least part of my own energy usage appeals to me in a way that huge government-backed but privately profited-from nuclear power does not.

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

Racemaniac (1099281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461357)

well, if they solely (can) use that wind turbine, you would have a point.
they'll make a profit because they have free power when there is wind (and can maybe even sell some of it back), and when there is no power, they can fall back on the powergrid.
i don't see anything in your post that dismisses the AC's post, nor the original paper, that apparantly even with very widespread windfarms, they're still not anywhere near reliable enough, and will still need something to fill in during off moments...

but i wonder why the fixation of having to put wind energy onto the powergrid? i don't see any reason to make it less reliable by putting such intermittend sources on it. we'll sometime run out of fossil fuels, so we'll probably have to switch to hydrogen fueled cars. now that's where windmills can shine. put at every "gas"station a windmill, have it make hydrogen whenever there is some wind (build some reserves when there is wind, use them when there isn't), and you've got a self providing gasstation that only needs a steady supply of water(shouldn't be hard).

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

Squalish (542159) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461739)

You've got it wrong on most points here.

Small wind turbines are generally not competitive.

It's the huge, 0.5-5MW carbon-fiber-and-steel constructions placed in ideal wind zones which are competing with other forms of generation. Subsidy can allow you less efficient development, if your country has the money to burn.

The "wind turbines on car parks" are practically decorations - 90% of them are placed in areas with very little wind. Greenwashing.

Positive Energy Return On Energy Invested on wind on a good site is on the order of months from start of operation. For silicon PV, it's still years off even in the best zones, and decades in some places. For solar thermal, I'm not sure - but I suspect (based on the relative costs) it's somewhere in between.

The old points against nuclear power have really, REALLY faded with age. Despite the lack of new plants in the last 20 years, the increase in reliability of existing plants have meant a continuously increasing amount of nuclear power produced in the US in that period. Meanwhile, we've made 4th gen plant designs that are difficult to melt down if you try, which dispose of their own transuranic waste via neutron bombardment, which breed fuel for 98% less mining required, which rely on non-uranium fuel cycles and are scalable to the small-town level.

Chernobyl, and disasters like it, were primarily conscious risks taken at a time when nuclear war was a consequence of failure to breed enough plutonium, and people were expendable (Stalin certainly liked his purges).

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461907)

The old points against nuclear power have really, REALLY faded with age.
The economic realities of both building and decommissioning plants have not really changed. I still haven't forgotten WPPSS [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

Squalish (542159) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462011)

Decommissioning? They started with solid plans to build a network of nuclear plants in 1957, started construction on 5, and after a series of cost overruns and delays, managed to get 1 plant online in 1983. Their failure of management doesn't exactly speak to problems with the nuclear industry, not when entire nuclear weapons programs have been brought to fruition in that timespan.

That 1 plant currently produces 9% of Washington's power, btw. Around 9 billion kilowatt-hours a year. At 6 cents per kwh, that's 540 million dollars a year for your state.

And like I said, this is a design that's half a century old or more. The newer ones have improved significantly.

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 5 years ago | (#21463025)

Decommissioning? They started with solid plans to build a network of nuclear plants in 1957, started construction on 5, and after a series of cost overruns and delays, managed to get 1 plant online in 1983. Their failure of management doesn't exactly speak to problems with the nuclear industry, not when entire nuclear weapons programs have been brought to fruition in that timespan.

Failure of management doesn't speak to problems with the industry? This is our -actual experience- with the industry, not some pie-in-the-sky projection. Reality on the ground.

Weapons production is strictly tax-supported. The nuclear weapons industry is not a market, so the economics don't compare to energy production. And that isn't exactly a shining example of success on the decommissioning front, in fact it has been a huge disaster [wikipedia.org] .

Experience so far shows that nuclear power isn't such a cheap, clean deal if you factor in the total end-to-end life cycle costs.

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (2, Informative)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462463)

greenwashing my ass:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/3182961.stm [bbc.co.uk]

"The 85 metre towers with 35m blades which will make up London's first major 'wind park' have also been approved by Havering and Barking and Dagenham councils.
They will provide 100% of the electricity requirements of the new assembly hall being built to produce diesel engines at the plant. "

and that was back in 2003. with electricity prices way higher, it must make even more sense now. Some people are so excitable about wanting to build nuclear power they will say anything to dismiss cheap, zero-emission and zero-waste energy systems that are proven and are much more socially acceptable than sticking a nuclear power station in the heart of a city.

Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462379)

The idea of storing the energy in pumped water systems, flywheels, molten salt is unbelievably prohibitive from a cost and scale standpoint. Don't bring that up.
Pumped water systems don't belong with the others. Industry routinely builds them. And in situations where you have a dam with a water reservior at its base, it's trival to add a pumped water system to the dam.

Hydro dams go well with wind... (4, Informative)

WoTG (610710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461301)

It's been mentioned a few times around these parts, British Columbia, that our primarily hydroelectric dam power generation system is a great match for unreliable power generated by wind (and solar). For the most part, hydro dams can literally be turned on and off (and many levels in between) quickly.

The same can not be said about nuclear. I'm not sure, but I think coal and other fossil fuel power plants are not efficient at dynamic adjustments either.

Re:Hydro dams go well with wind... (2, Interesting)

pesho (843750) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461525)

I was thinking the same thing. In my country (Bulgaria) the nuclear power plant(s) were planed in combination with cascades of hydro dams. The idea was to use excess power during the night time to pump water from the lower dams to the upper dams, turning them both into water and energy storage. If there was need for more power during the day the hydro dams would supply it and the water will be held in the lower reservoirs. I don't see why this can't be applied to wind and solar power.

Re:Hydro dams go well with wind... (3, Interesting)

jcaplan (56979) | more than 5 years ago | (#21464493)

Nice point about management of power from dams. It got me thinking about power management in general. We can manage load in three ways: managing supply, storing power and managing demand.

Managing supply can be done by carefully choosing when to turn on and off various sources. As the parent mentioned, nuclear, coal and fuel oil are not well-suited for rapid adjustments to power to respond to demand variation and used for base load. I was going to tell you that gas-fired pants did not fall into this category, but Wikipedia tells me that there are two types of natural gas plants. The gas turbine facilities can be brought up to full power fairly quickly. The "combined cycle" plants are used for base load.

As other posters are mentioning, energy storage would be an ideal compliment to wind (or solar) power. Currently energy storage is in the form of "pump storage" where water up pumped up to a reservoir at higher elevation when there is excess supply. This is an especially nice way to store power from wind or solar system, since their power is quite variable and and inefficiency in the pump storage scheme would only be wasting sunlight or wind, not creating excess pollution.

Demand can also be shaped to more readily reflect supply by including a price signal. Many industrial and some residential customers pay different rates depending on time of use. For some energy-intensive industries (think aluminum smelting or hydrogen production through electrolysis) shifting their demand to off-peak times would have huge cost savings if there is a price differential. Perhaps some industrial customers would be interested in purchasing some of their power under a real-time pricing scheme, where they would decide how much power to purchase based on hourly pricing. There are also ways to manage residential demand as well. Customers with time of use pricing can save money by using a timer with their hot water heater so they are not paying to keep water hot when they are at work and the electric price is high or similarly plan their air conditioning load. There is also a scheme where the electric utility can remotely shut off hot water heaters during times of high demand via radio control, and customers are given incentives to participate. (see: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13110 [energy.gov] )

(Real-time pricing would, of course, might be impractical for many industries whose demand is inflexible (think health care) but could be useful for industries such as smelters. <rant> Hourly pricing for electrical suppliers without any price signal to consumers was part of the cause of the California energy meltdown. Ultimately the suppliers asked for a state bailout to cover the extreme prices the producers were charging because the producers had intentionally manipulated supply by manipulating supply, causing blackouts, halting subway systems and generally causing widespread disruption.</rant>)

The larger point is that we have some technologies available that will help us accommodate a greater degree of variability in our power sources, without having to toss out excess power or have shortages at times of high demand. We will always need base load power, but intelligent management of supply and demand can help smooth out the peaks and valleys of solar and wind power and customer demand.


Re:Roland, wrong as usual. Here's the actual paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461361)

Other attempts at lying with maths in the paper include the claimed efficiency gains got by connecting many farms together and then running a single cable to the customers. At no point is the total loss (which is typically huge) given. Instead, theoretical improvements in loss based on the fact that you're running less electricity through the wires than you could are provided. So much is made of a 9% loss saving gained against a theoretical loss maximimum because you can only get an average of 50% load on your line!

That's like saying that we have a useful benefit in withdrawing police and education services from an area because we no longer have to pay for wear and tear on police cars and school buses!!

And comparisons for downtime include planned maintainance for the coal fired stations! Will noone tell this idiot that planned outages (which take place at low demand) are far less damaging to a supply service than unplanned outages, which are what a low wind day is!!!

You are getting it backwards (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462633)

Actually you have not quite got it. Continent scale wind can provide 60% of demand before you have to figure out what to do with excess generation: http://www.belfercenter.org/files/uploads/Continental_Wind_web_Nov07_opt.pdf [belfercenter.org] .

It is your concepts of baseload and peak which are hindering your thinking. It is obvious that wind is forecastable and has slow variations in availability when many regions are connected. Thus, fuel based plants such as coal plants can be used as infrequent additions to the system but not necessarily as spinning reserve. But, if you think about it, hydro plays a role in flood control, so we don't get all uptight if we happen to let water out of a dam without generating some power. We paid for the dam, not the rain. Similarly, increasing wind capacity to the point where we throw 15% away is not a big deal especially if it is done in a way that extends the life of turbines and towers, just as hydro works to preserve dams. But, the situation with wind is even better than hydro. If you look at Fig. 3, as you mentioned, meeting a constant demand, as can be estimated from the hatched areas, greater geographical diversity leads to substantially less "wasted" generation. Comparison with the up time of a single coal or nuclear plant is entirely appropriate in the context of the exercise. It is just the baseload concept that is limiting because it is so closely associated with fuel use now that is causes us to think backwards. One ought to be using fuel as sparingly as possible rather than wasting it on loads that can be covered without fuel use.
Rent solar power for your home and save: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users-selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]

not exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21463959)

"You need peaking plants or energy storage"..well, that's on opinion, but may I suggest another, more decentralization of production where no additional grid infrastructure beyond what we have now is needed. This is where home solar PV comes into play. There are millions and millions of roofs out there right now doing nothing more than rotting shingles in the hot sun. There are millions and millions of autos out there sitting doing nothing in parking lots or driveways 99% of the time with roof space for solar PV trickle chargers-if we had electric and plug in electric vehicles as common as gashog SUVs on the dealers lots. With a US average of 33 miles for daily commuting, old tech battery tech was good enough years ago, let alone today, even taking expensive and dangerous Lithium Ion out of the picture and using "old fashioned" NiMH and AGM lead acid batteries.

Better insulation for homes combined with using roofspace could be a huge chunk of the solution here (not all but a huge chunk, drop demand/increase supply simultaneously), but it is economic disruptive technology because eventually (varies widely but today it is a fact, eventually within the warranty period of the installations) it is paid off for the homeowner and they from that point forward wouldn't be required to send in the monthly "electric bill" payment. Never forget that part, the big electrical industry doesn't like that idea at all, they want you vendor locked in to their subscription model with no long term pricing contracts forever and ever and a day.

Windfarms in west TX? (1)

xENoLocO (773565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461215)

This is semi related, but recently on a few trips to Orange County / John Wayne airport from Dallas, we flew over what must have been 500 miles of wind farms in west texas (maybe new mexico?)

Does anyone have any more info? It stretched all the way as far as I could see from the airplane, and we flew for about 45 minutes before they stopped... it's insane.

Re:Windfarms in west TX? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461347)

See also my point #5 below that addresses the original slashdot post about scaling/aggregating wind farm output (T. Boone Pickens).

Here is some more info:
1. Texas is the largest wind power producer in the world, now exceeding California and all other countries.
2. western Texas has the majority of Texas wind power, but there is some developing along the 1400 mile coast line as well

3. Texas is the leading state for power deregulation, including a crucial but little-known piece of deregulation that permits a power generating company to market and sell power directly to end users. Why is this important? Because wind power is both economically uncompetitive while being potentially perceived as a "premium product." Thus, risk-taking small and large wind power companies can try their hand at direct marketing to end users using premium pricing, a market exploratory process that the large, incumbent, and previously government-protected-monopoly utilities, have thus far in history proven uninterested in attempting. And it is working - Austin and Texas has the highest rate of voluntary adoption of "green power" (that is, premium-priced) in the nation, and growing.

4. Texas also, (regrettably - but favorably at least in the short term for wind power) still taxes its consumers to subsidize wind power contributed to the grid. Over time, with variable pricing and demand-shifting, wind power may be able to stand on its own. The immediate question is whether, absent voluntary consumer choice (which might make wind viable anyway), a government should tax its poorest energy users to redistribute to its corporations in this manner. Left for the reader to answer.

5. Entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens is one of the world's largest and most interesting wind power and infrastructure visionaries. For example, he is building the world's largest wind farm west of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex as well as directing hundreds of thousands of acres of water rights into productive use in north Texas. The wind farm is notable because it anticipates the useful conclusion of the Stanford research - basic economies of scale to variable-producing wind farms. This is because Pickens's wind farm may be large enough to exhibit some of the characteristics of output-averaging that is the point of the paper. Also interesting to note is the fact that Pickens must build a brand new mega-transmission capability to get this energy to relevant markets.

6. Unfortunately, no state including Texas has deregulated enough to permit proper competition in transmission. Thus, Texas's transportation grid, while adequate, cannot itself become a creative contributor to ongoing electricity solutions but instead must be dragged forward by Pickens and other entrepreneurs, rather than being owned and quickly updated by them. It is the lesson of the Railroads all over again that were subsidized and owned by governments and ultimately bankrupted and beaten by the non-subsidized competitor (read your Thomas DiLorenzo American history). Further competitive problems and parallels between the corrupted (by state intervention and subsidy) railroads and the electricity grid are left to the reader.


Counting vote won't take long / Two hold key to $2.5 billion water pipeline in Panhandle
- http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=2007_4453835 [chron.com]

Knowledge Problem
Commentary on Economics, Information and Human Action
- http://www.knowledgeproblem.com/archives/cat_electricity.html [knowledgeproblem.com]

Wrong about railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21462941)

The railroads really were only subsidized by government with land grants to build trackage out west in the mid-1800's. During WWI they were taken over by the government, which left them generally in a bad position when the depression hit, but then they did well in WWII. While they were restricted a bit in WWII (e.g. no new passenger locos), they were mostly fine with very little government regulation.

It was the government subsidizing cars and airplanes with Interstates, airports, and air-traffic control systems that really did the railroads in. If the federal government had built new high-speed rail lines next to the Interstates, you would be able to see how well the railroads would do if they were subsidized as much as cars.

As it is now, railroads are all responsible for maintaining their own rights-of-way, which is very expensive, and results in very little passenger rail travel. Note that freight railroads are booming in the US, and even with almost zero subsidization they are cheaper than air freight or trucking. They can move a ton of freight 400 miles on a gallon of fuel and require only 2 crew for a 10,000 ton train (100 cars, each with 100 tons of cargo).


last straw (1)

jeffstar (134407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461217)

Is there some way I can filter out the articles submitted by roland? I never want to see another one. If that is not possible can I filter Zonk?

Re:last straw (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461327)

second that.
and while we're at it can we get rid of the 'you have to wait this long before you can reply' requirement. I type fast and I'm sick and tired of having that thrown at me.

Re:last straw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21461547)

No, because your intended post, "second that." offers nothing valuable to the discussion. The filters are there to increse the quality of the posts, including yours.

flexible consumption (2, Interesting)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461231)

Transporting electricity over long distances is expensive. There are better solutions. Deep-freeze warehouses can drop their temperature when there is a lot of wind and then turn off the coolers when there isn't. In Esbjerg (DK) they have both windmills and distributed central heating (small power plant uses exhaust to heat houses). When there is a lot of wind, people turn on their central heating and the power plant has to generate a lot of electricity to be able to supply all those houses with exhaust heat. With the windmills running full power, the price of electricity drops to zero. Now you can transport all that power to Poland, or you can tell some of those Esbjerg houses to switch to electric heating. What do you think is cheapest?

Re:flexible consumption (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461273)

Remote power systems (dams) in South America are sometimes supplied with a companion aluminum plant to convert the energy into a high value commodity. The raw material comes in by rail and the finished product and the stored energy leaves the same way. No 1500 mile power lines needed, good efficiency and nobody complains about the pollution.

Re:flexible consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21464465)

Electrical power for zero - now you're dreaming! Wind farm owners are in the green for one thing - green backs - both from the feds in the form of a 1.9 cent/kwhr production credit and trying to negotiate the highest possible purchase power contracts they can get (hopefully tied to the cost of whatever the local market will bear). After all - no fuel expenses spells maximum profits, along with only a few employees. And since there is no need to do year long EIS's on siting these white forests, they are easy to site and once there, a blight on the landscape. In Germany, with over 35,000 MegaWatts of wind generation installed, this has been found to displace only 2,000 MW of conventional generation. Do you research people. The Stanford folks are living a dream, and once the penetration gets to the point where it is a significant percentage of the installed power base (effects start showing with about a 5% penetration), you WILL see power quality problems, power fluctuations, etc. Wind turbine generators are very fickle machines, most using double fed induction generators (like the 'G'ood 'E'nough company), which trip off line the instant they are not happy with grid conditions, usually creating a power shortage at precisely the wrong time. This is where conventional generation excels, as it will ride through grid faults and is what keeps the light on.

ignore this article completely please (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461311)

the guy is clueless.

the biggest factor in matching wind power to the grid is not interconnecting them, the grid does that just fine, but stabilizing power output, and there are some pretty impressive solutions out there involving superconductors. Another problem is that wind power is traditionally generated best where there are by pure coincidence *no* transmission lines at all.

To offset demand you simply need overcapacity, interconnections are obvious, if the power is not brought to the grid you might as well not generate it in the first place.

If anything stabilizing the power using superconductors would be worth an article (or two) because it is one of the few current applications of superconductors in 'normal engineering' that I'm aware of.

I've seen one of these units up close (as close as the fence would let me get), it is packaged in a 40' container and has a bunch of very impressive wiring coming out of it. This was in western canada near the ridge.

well, at least interconnect the savings (1)

FriedmannSolution5 (950021) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461423)

Not sure what physical grid he's talking about. But there is a model of distributed micro generation where you leave the actual power at the location of generation, but ship the savings over the internet. it would mean that you would "undersize" the micro powerplants (so there's little excess to supply to the power grid, but at least they're cheaper powerplants to install) and always shave a fraction off a household's grid demand, in an asymmetric, intermittent fashion. that is: at one location, some days it's windy, some days it's not. but it is going to be windy...somewhere. but since you as the consumer didn't buy the hardware, it doesn't matter - you'd just pay an average bill. the company supplying the micro-power equipment on people's houses would need to play the averages and spread the units out geographically, hopefully cherrypicking the best locations as they grew the network. but the more people who joined up, the safer the bet would be. kind of like a global, realtime renewable-energy mutual fund for wind or solar. so for a household it's: keep what you generate, share what you save. what's most important is that on-grid consumers (many people) could start generating *part* of their energy bill using sustainable methods, without having to fork out a ton of cash for a full solar or wind solution (which is only helpful on some days anyway). (Although great kudos to those early adopters who can and do install a state-of-the-art system!) anyway the open source experiment based on solar and wind is happening next year, and a preview is here: http://www.solarnetwork.net/ [solarnetwork.net]

Re:well, at least interconnect the savings (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461437)

I've lived off the grid in canada for 2 years, and in my experience if you are careful about your useage you can get by with surprisingly little input power. We used wood heat for all heating purposes, about 1700 watts of solar and a 2KW wind turbine. With that combination the generator was used once every 2 months or so to equalize the batteries. We did the laundry in the community laundry hall.
The total cost of the system was quite substantial but the experience alone is priceless.
The golden rule of homepower: conservation is cheaper and easier than production.

prediction is more important (2, Insightful)

wasteur (889134) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461393)

There are two incorrect assumptions in this discussion: a) that we have to make generation fit usage, not the reverse, and b) that we don't know what the wind is going to be doing in a few hours time.

a) Many industries could use power when available, not on demand. Desalination is a great example. The problem is that energy delivery and markets are not structured to work this way. Yet.

b) With short-term prediction of hours to days, you can master the variability by scheduling conventional generation around the wind. The concept of a baseload is not helpful: just plot the wind at the bottom of the chart, and the problem is different.

How about this? Use hydro to level it out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21461449)

Basically you need 2 lakes. When you have lots of wind/solar/other variable power (unused parts of corn/soy plants for burning???) available, you pump the water from the lower of the 2 lakes to the higher one (they could even be saltwater if near an ocean) then run a hydro plant when you are low on wind/at night/in the winter/etc.
I thought this idea was semi common knowledge. Is it impractical or just too boring compared to building giant additions to the existing electric grid?

All within moderation (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461623)

moderation of both people who post and the editor how allow people like RP to post just so they can generate trafic.

I am not sure wether this posting will be moderated insightfull, off-topic or whatever, but at least people have an option to do it. Unfortunatly this is not possible with the obvious abusers.

don't windmills kill a large number of birds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21461751)

I thought I read that windmills are responsible for many bird deaths, is that not accurate?

Re:don't windmills kill a large number of birds? (4, Informative)

Squalish (542159) | more than 5 years ago | (#21461855)

The bird issue stems from a huge, primitive windfarm in Altamont Pass, California. Essentially, hundreds of small turbines built on steel truss towers form the only perches available (and lots of them) on the thin grassland; and thin grassland attracts plenty of mice. It was estimated that any given tower killed a raptor once every 5 years. Non-issue. Newer towers are much bigger(less blade edge per area), and are constructed as monolithic tubes which remove any perch space.

There was a concern with two series' of Appalachian ridgeline towers which were recording significant numbers of bat kills (around 1 a night per large turbine). The bats appeared on infrared to be specifically attracted to the moving propeller, particularly when it was extended to continue moving at full speed in low wind. What causes this is still under investigation, as well as potential ways to ward them off. This may have simply been because of a thriving local bat community, or merely the placement of the towers on heavily forested ridgeline, and a study done on the phenomena recommends that these be taken into account when siting towers.

Suffice it to say, though, that these are useless objections when faced with the alternative - wiping that forested Appalachian ridge clean off the face of the earth to get at the coal underneath, and dumping it into the valley on either side. This is happening now, and when you object to wind you support wind's alternatives.

oh, the humanity, er, energy (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462203)

Lemme see... what if we look at the net energy produced? Adding all those towers and wires, it must take quite a bit of energy to refine all that steel and aluminum. How long do the windmills have to turn to make up for all that energy? Until then you're in an energy hole.

Re:oh, the humanity, er, energy (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462481)

Actually, only about half a year. see: http://www.awea.org/pubs/documents/FAQ2002%20-%20web.PDF [awea.org]

Several studies
have looked at this question over the years and have concluded that wind energy has one of
the shortest energy payback times of any energy technology. A wind turbine typically takes
only a few months (3-8, depending on the average wind speed at its site) to "pay back" the
energy needed for its fabrication, installation, operation, and retirement.

On a related note: Solar: (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21466645)

Actually, [windmills take] only about half a year [to pay back the energy cost of making them - mainly making their aluminum towers].

Also: The energy output of windmills is high-quality electricity (i.e. the output end of the carnot cycle) but much of the energy of construction is heat. Comparing the two is apples-to-oranges.

On a related note: Solar panels take longer to repay the energy cost. But they are used primarily to provide off-grid power. So they need to be compared to the energy cost of installing a grid at the location: Cutting trees for poles, smelting metal for transformers, wiring, switches, meters, guy cables, bolts,... Melting sand into glass for insulators. Fuel to haul construction workers, clear the brush, dig the holes, install the poles, string the wires. A share of the energy to construct the plant. And the energy going INTO the plant's heat engine to make and transport the energy to the load at far less than 100% efficiency.

When you add this all up the energy costs of the alternative grid power, solar panels can be an energy bargain.

£20,000 to £50,000 per wind mill per y (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21462603)

A recent UK Radio 4 article on Farming Today reported that you can earn between £20,000 and £50,000 per year for a single wind power generator. Although a large percentage of that revenue for the first 10 years is required to cover the initial installation, this seems a very sensible use of inaccessible farm land that's up on a windy hillside or crag.

In the UK the wind power option is frequently criticised and disregarded for making the landscape unsightly. If only it were possible to make them from a hardened transparent plastic of some description. Nuclear fuel seems too well established to allow any radical shift in power generation policy, even despite the indications of cancer occurrences in a recent Telegraph Article [telegraph.co.uk] .

Hamster power? (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 5 years ago | (#21462659)

It's a bit like having a bunch of hamsters generating your power, each in a separate cage with a treadmill. At any given time, some hamsters will be sleeping or eating and some will be running on their treadmill. If you have only one hamster, the treadmill is either turning or it isn't, so the power's either on or off. With two hamsters, the odds are better that one will be on a treadmill at any given point in time and your chances of running, say, your blender, go up. Get enough hamsters together and the odds are pretty good that at least a few will always be on the treadmill, cranking out the kilowatts.

That'd be SOOOO cool. I wonder how many hamsters I'd need to run my PC?

Of course, the smell would necessitate location in the (unheated) garage, so it may not work for very long...

It's a bit like having a bunch of hamsters... (2, Funny)

msebast (318695) | more than 5 years ago | (#21464363)

When you see a hamster analogy, you just know your dealing with quality journalism.

Transmission Loss (1)

swokm (1140623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21468491)

Understand it. Having to haul High Voltage AC over 3,000 miles is not ideal. Having to build out (and acquire property for) new point-to-point HVDC lines is crazy expensive. Local, decentralized, regionally grid-tied for backup.

And for those mocking methane and cow flatulence above, there's a 5.66 megawatt power plant running from landfill decomposition gasses in Oregon (since 2005, actually). Seems financially viable, as they just expanded it. http://www.cooscurryelectric.com/webfront/power/facts-coffin.php [cooscurryelectric.com]

Course, I'm personally a big fan of just skipping ahead already to spend INSANE money to sprinkle large nuclear facilities where feasible. As in: desalinization FAST type IIIa/IV high-temperature helium gas nuclear reactors. With integrated reprocessing and thermochemical conversion of a portion of purified seawater to H2 + ½O2 on the first turbine condenser stage (flash desalinization on the second). As a bonus, you end up with free ozone, when can then be used to preserve the clean water on its journey through the REAL series of tubes. I know I'm apparently alone on that one... but we'll all find out soon enough that water is the real priority.

It's what we'll end up doing anyway, why not star the research now? (And more wind farms, yes, are nifty too. Completely unreliable, and nifty.)
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