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Is Wind Power Worth It?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by mpm, Jul 24, 2008.

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  1. mpm

    mpm Guest

    Picking up a sub-thread from elsewhere:

    Is wind generation profitable (even competitive) on a utility scale?
    I read that Florida Power & Light was the largest wind operator. They
    are an investor owned utility so I downloaded their annual report.
    However, I can't decipher from that whether or not wind is _The
    Answer_ to our energy woes.

    What is the nameplate capacity of a typical utility-scale windmill
    Is there a financial sweet-spot for grid capacity connection in terms
    of kW or MW for these generators?
    What really drives the economics of wind? Why all the excitement?

    And while I'm at it, what ever happened to "too cheap to meter"?

  2. Guest

    Kills birds, intermittent power, noisy for the neighbors, an
    eyesore... apart from that, what's not to like?

    OTTOMH - $1/watt was the capital cost, probably improved some since
    last I looked

    Doesn't Vestas make wind turbines? Didn't GE buy out a division of
    megawatt-class wind turbines in the US?

    FPL owns/operates the SEGS solar thermal plants in the Mojave Desert,
    CA. I wanted to buy their stock for that reason alone.

  3. A resonable place to start is

  4. Guest

    See page 13 of the 2007 Annual Report (Adobe PDF page 23)

    About 1 MW, some more, some less


  5. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    In the right locations they can provide electricity at a cost I believe
    only twice that of coal fired. The big boys are working on 5MW units now.

    Offshore wind power is becoming very popular in the UK now.

    Haha ! Nuclear is the UK's most expensive source at around 3 x coal fired.
    That does include decommisioning costs AIUI though.

  6. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    Yes. One of the largest manufacturers AIUI.

  7. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    Then factor in capacity factor.

  8. mpm

    mpm Guest

    Yeah, I saw that. Can't make heads or tails of it.
    Best I can figure, wind takes a lot more Capital Expense per MW
    All this page really gives us is that they've got roughly 15000 MW of
    alternative generated power (which is not a lot), and about a third of
    this is wind (which is even less).

    Especially when you get to the section on facilities. (page 23).
    Does it really take nearly 7,489 windmills to develop 5000 MW of

    That's an awful lot of geographically dispersed generators to
    As as someone else mentioned, most of the time you drive by them, they
    are not spinning.
  9. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    Which one's that ?

  10. mpm

    mpm Guest

    I used the term _The Answer_ facetiously. I guess you didn't pick up
    on that.
    I am very aware you can't put windmills on cars, for instance.
    (...although, earlier in life, I did have a couple Fords that would
    have benefited from that?)
    Though if we all had electric cars, then I concede the point.

    "too cheap to meter" was a very famous slogan associated with the
    nuclear power industry.

    But back to my point about Wind - which I guess is a knee jerk
    reaction to all the recent T. Boone Pickens commercials on television.
    (?) To me, that commericial, with its dramatically choreographed
    wipes to pictures of spinning windmills and what appears to be barely
    a 50-watt photoelectric panel makes me want to puke. Yesterday on
    MSNBC, Pickens when interviewed said we had to open up every
    approach: wind, oil, solar, nuclear, the works!! Duh?!

    No mention of conservation, by the way. None that I heard anyway.

    I was sincerely asking why there seems to be all this hype about wind
    generation in particular, when it not at all clear (to me at least),
    that wind power is even remotely capable of making any appreciable
    dent in our energy needs at any kind of competitive price per kWh (as
    compared to say, solar-thermal generation). I did not intend to
    debate any of the very fine points you mentioned about the greeness of
    these technologies.

  11. Martin Brown

    Martin Brown Guest

    Blyth. Two units of 2MW each about 1 mile offshore. It was intended to
    test the technology in 2000 - it makes pretty sad reading. Huge
    amounts of downtime even before the cable failed totally. The initial
    power cable installation was inadequate for the conditions and

    Being well North of the Watford gap I expect it never made the
    national news, unlike the annihilation of Labour in Glasgow East last

    Curiously most of the reports on Blyth have vanished online. These are
    the last surviving ones I can find:

    Announcement of intent to build (and the big grants it gets)

    DTI report on its operation:

    Slightly cynical but AFAICT accurate description of how the cable
    failed and the thing has been off GRID since spring 2005.

    E.ONs announcement of buying it at a firesale price (unstated)

    They apparently do intend to fix it and renovate the turbines. The kit
    is unlikely to be very well now after 3 years unloved out in the North
    Sea. The onshore ones near the A19 are every bit as unconvincing 2 out
    of 3 typically idle even when the wind is blowing. Only the Sunderland
    Nissan plant ones seem to be properly maintained and working most
    times I pass (although one of theirs did self immolate closing the A19
    for a day).

    I do wonder how many of these projects are designed to harvest the
    grant money rather than the wind. The amount of electricity generated
    will barely make the interest payments on a commercial loan.

    Martin Brown
  12. MooseFET

    MooseFET Guest

    It was a lie. :)

    The biggest problem with producing wind power is the range of power
    levels you have to design for. The power available from wind runs as
    the cube of the wind speed. This means that you have to design the
    machine so that it can withstand power levels many times its average
    operating level.

    Most modern designs have some method by which they drop their
    efficiency when the wind gets too strong. The ones like T. Boone
    Pickens is using in his ad usually are variable pitch and can feather
    in a very strong wind. Smaller ones are made so that they will turn
    out of alignment or have a mechanical brake on them to stop them
    turning in a strong wind.

    Once you have made the power, you have to get it to market. People
    don't generally live right near where you would build a wind farm.
    You need power lines to get the power to where it will be used. Again
    you have the issue of the large variation in power level. You have to
    build lines for the peak power they will carry but they won't carry
    that much very often. This makes the power lines a less good
    investment than normal.

    Wind power also runs up against the desire to store the energy. We
    don't have any good way to store it. The best options are to do
    things like pump water that don't really need to happen at a steady
    rate or to have a very wide ranging grid that can transfer the power
    from where the wind is blowing to where it isn't.
  13. MooseFET

    MooseFET Guest

    No, the decommission costs will make reactors very unpopular. It will
    cost more than building them in the first place and since it doesn't
    promise any power too cheap to meter in the future it is all bad
    news. We have to wait for that problem to be behind us too before it
    is likely to get popular again.
  14. mpm

    mpm Guest

    On Jul 25, 10:27�am, Jim Thompson <[email protected]>
    Me too.
    I wish I had more information about this whole wind thing.
    This weekend, I plan to set aside time to visit the link provided by
    Martin (above) and see what comes of that.

    I must say I am not particularly impressed with BF's info regarding
    kickbacks to the landowner for generating power. I know this is
    standard practice, but it appears wind generation costs (even
    excluding the land) are already pretty high per kWh as compared to
    traditional fossil fuels. Does that make wind competitive, now or in
    the future as fuel costs climb?

    Maybe it does just boil down to a matter of scale. If we build
    enough wind generators, costs come down, designs improve, people get
    employed, etc...

    But right now, for reasons I guess I really can't explain - this wind
    thing is not passing the sniff test for me. I am now going to
    paraphrase some offline conversations I've had with other friends and
    engineers... See if you agree:

    I would rather see us develop nuclear (with breeders), and/or solar-
    thermal. We have enough known Uranium stockpiles now for the next 500
    years. It is just as green, (to the extent Uranium occurs naturally),
    and is renewable thanks to breeder reactor technology.

    AND, it's not an unproved technology on large scales:
    France, and the US Navy (aircraft carriers & submarines) are great

    France produces something on the order of 80% of its needs from
    nuclear (since circa 1976) - so much so, that it exports energy to
    Italy, Germany, London, etc... and all without a single siginficant
    safety accident, saboage, or terrorist attack. Neither of the two
    Navy sub accidents (Thresher & Scorpion) were the result of nuclear,
    rather hull crushing at depth.

    Chernobyl is another matter. That is attributable to sloppy
    engineering practices, poor reactor design, and human error. However,
    even that accident is arguably a lot less damaging than the smoke
    belched out by countless powerplants all over the world. (?)

    Wind may be inevitable as a bridge technology - to get us to whatever
    better solution(s) might be out there in the future. Fusion? But
    given what I know, this really seems to be the hard way to get
    there. Or am I completely off base here?

  15. mpm

    mpm Guest

    France uses breeder reactors, so there is actually very little waste.
  16. James Arthur

    James Arthur Guest

    T. Boone Pickens has a point--$700 billion flowing out of the
    country every year to buy oil would be awfully nice to keep here.

    Related, funny: Nozzlerage

    James Arthur
  17. neon


    Oct 21, 2006
    Well every body did put in their opinions all right. The fact remains that no they can never conpete with oil generation. 3 blades 40" feet swinging in the breeze are prone to expensive mainatnance. not to mention the generators themselves. and they also need external power to get going when the wind comes up. corporation are getting good tax breaks that is why the wind towers are there for tax breaks not to ever make money.
  18. Jim Yanik

    Jim Yanik Guest

    and in open cooling pools.
    It was meant only to be a temporary storage,not a long-term method.
    You must have not seen the videos of how they test the transport cars. No
    credible danger of "taking out the vehicles".
    they glassify it and store it in caverns.
    the waste is only a problem if it can migrate.
  19. Jim Yanik

    Jim Yanik Guest

    well,maybe we should be producing our OWN petro sources.
    BTW,I've read that in some places it took only TWO years to begin oil
    This "10 years" factoid bandied about is IMO,an attempt to discourage,maybe
    a worst-case estimate.
    read this about Pickens and his energy proposal;

    Junk Science: Is T. Boone 'Swiftboating' America?,2933,390821,00.html
  20. I bet they don't test it against shaped cutting charges.
    The IEDs used in Iraq can disable an M1

    Dirk - Transcendence UK - A UK political party - Our podcasts on weird stuff
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